UK judges reject proposed rape law reforms

[JURIST] The UK Council of Circuit Judges [official website] which represents British judges in England and Wales has dismissed British government proposals [consultation paper, PDF] designed to increase rape convictions in the country, which have hit a record low [BBC report]. The proposals advanced last spring include efforts to help jurors understand rape victims, such as using expert witnesses to dispel rape myths in court and showing the jury videotaped interviews with victims when they first go to the police. The plan also includes a proposal to redefine the capacity to consent in an effort to clarify when a woman is too intoxicated to consent.

The judges say the proposals are too complicated. One circuit judge told The Guardian newspaper: "The line [between capacity and incapacity] is something that is probably best left to a jury to decide on all the evidence. They will hear what the parties say, what happened, and so on. At what point does the law say this person is incapable?" Many government officials in the UK nonetheless believe the reforms are necessary to prevent rape cases from falling apart as was the case in a notorious 2005 Welsh rape case [BBC report] in which the court ruled that the victim had been too drunk to remember whether she had consented to intercourse. Rape convictions in the UK declined from 33 percent in 1977 to 5.29 percent in 2004. The Guardian has more.

 

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