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Conviction of sex crimes

(24 Posts)
keepingmum121 Wed 03-Jun-15 22:46:50

I just want opinions here.

Do you think it is right that for a person to be convicted of sexual assault, the jury have to be sure 'beyond all reasonable doubt'? Or should it be changed to 'on the balance of probability'?
I ask because these crimes are notoriously hard to prove beyond all reasonable doubt because there are virtually never any witnesses.

AskBasil Wed 03-Jun-15 22:53:51

I think it's got to be beyond reasonable doubt, just like every other crime.

The problem is not the beyond reasonable doubt benchmark IMO, but the routine disbelief of women and the ingrained misogyny which means attitudes to sex are so poor, which leads to juries defining "reasonable doubt" very unreasonably and differently than for other crimes.

The problem with the conviction rate aren't necessarily due to the legal system itself, more to the wider cultural assumptions about sex and rape and women IMO.

PuffinsAreFictitious Thu 04-Jun-15 05:42:39

What Basil said.

Rape and sexual assault are perhaps the only instances where the prosecution has to spend as much, if not more, time arguing that a crime has actually taken place as they do trying to show that the defendant is guilty. And this is bound up in beliefs around women, their use and their ability to be truthful.

cailindana Thu 04-Jun-15 06:20:57

I agree with Basil and Puffins. The 'beyond reasonable doubt' standard is essential for criminal convictions, given the impact such a conviction has. It is the juries that are the problem, because they are raised in a socket that protects men first and foremost and tries anything to allow them to rape without impunity. Up until 1992 rape was legal as Lon as your victim was your wife. A society in which something is a crime unless you do it to the one person you're supposed to love, someone who trusts you, is far too fucked up to provide jurors with any hope of recognising reasonable doubt in judging that crime.

cailindana Thu 04-Jun-15 06:21:28

*society

paxtecum Thu 04-Jun-15 06:23:42

There are already many innocent people in prison, there does not need to be more.

TheBlackRider Thu 04-Jun-15 21:50:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PuffinsAreFictitious Thu 04-Jun-15 22:31:47

And what Cailin said.

thedancingbear Fri 05-Jun-15 11:47:31

See, I think there's something in this. Of course the best thing would be to bust the various myths and assumptions surrounding rape, but realistically that's a long way off happening.

Given how rare false allegations where the alleger actually pushes things all the way to a trial are, how many wrong convictions would such a change in the law lead to, really? I can believe the numbers would be comparable to those for other crimes.

thedancingbear Fri 05-Jun-15 11:50:30

Sorry, I meant to add, I would envisage the situation being more sophisticated than than a simple shift in standard of proof. It would need to be shown beyond reasonable doubt that sex had in fact taken place, but it would only then need to be shown on balance of probabilities that it was not consensual. I understand that the former is much easier to prove, via medical or examination or the admission of the rapist ('she wanted it'), and that it is the latter that is the usual stumbling block.

TheBlackRider Fri 05-Jun-15 11:50:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

thedancingbear Fri 05-Jun-15 12:37:42

It would only make it easier for convicted rapists to claim they were unjustly imprisoned and garner public sympathy (which already happens - see Ched Evans).

To be fair, I think it would do a lot more that just that. An I think the public sympathy for the likes of Evans has been overstated. People will always notice the few vocal arseholes but I'm confident that most people think he's a scumbag.

Incidentally, something I struggle with on this board is the assumption that most men are quietly pro-rape - in my experience that really, really isn't the case.

TheBlackRider Fri 05-Jun-15 12:46:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

cailindana Fri 05-Jun-15 14:02:37

I don't think men in general are quietly pro rape, although rapists obviously are. I do think men are vocally pro men which means that in allegations of rape, or even with convictions like CE se have men talking about the effect on the man, as though being accused of rape is worse than being raped.

cailindana Fri 05-Jun-15 14:04:08

I also think there are a worrying number of men who don't understand what rape is, who rape but never consider it to be rape, who perpetuate rape myths etc.

AskBasil Sat 06-Jun-15 08:02:54

I'm not sure people think men are pro rape.

It would be an interesting discussion for another thread. <Considers starting one>

<Can't be arsed>

<Hopes someone else will do it instead>

Athenaviolet Sat 06-Jun-15 09:08:43

Imo there needs to be more scope for victims to sue rapists through the civil system after unsuccessful rape trials. In a civil court the burden of proof is on 'balance of probabilities' so at least victims could get a verdict in their favour and some compensation. There's also the potential argument that the fear of losing £££ would be more of a deterrent than the tiny chance of jail the criminal system offers.

There is the criminal injuries compensation system but it's really not up to the job of the best interests of rape victims.

TheBlackRider Sat 06-Jun-15 09:25:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Athenaviolet Sat 06-Jun-15 10:02:42

The 'opportunity' only exists for rich women who have the money for lawyers.

Penfold007 Sat 06-Jun-15 10:20:28

I think it's important to have 'beyond reasonable doubt' in criminal courts.

TheBlackRider Sat 06-Jun-15 10:37:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

thedancingbear Sat 06-Jun-15 10:57:33

Someone may be around soon who knows far more than me, but I can't imagine CFA (no win no fee) arrangements would work for most victims for a few reasons:

-even on a CFA basis, you are going to be paying the other side's cost if you lose. A rape case is never going to be straightforward so this is going to be at least five figures. Even if your lawyer tells you you have a good case, it's still a hell of a risk.

-the amount of money a solicitor can charge in a CFA case is limited to a set proportion of the damages, i think it's 25%. Against that background, I expect CFA only 'works' for solicitors money-wise if they can achieve a quick out of court settlement. But that's going to be rare in rape cases - it requires the rapist to admit liability/guilt. So you're basically going to trial in most instances, and I expect that most competent solicitors wouldn't be prepared to do that in exchange for a small proportion of the likely damages.

-also, bear in mind that, no win no fee or otherwise, if the claim fails, that creates a pretty open-and-shut claim for defamation in respect of a false rape claim.

Otherwise put, the criminal and civil law in this area is, in practice, almost uniquely fucked. I recognise that tinkering with the standard of proof could be a slippery slope, but I also think there could be scope to distinguish rape from many other crimes in this respect.

totallybewildered Sat 06-Jun-15 11:03:49

It has to be beyond reasonable doubt. No question.

Guilty people undoubtedly go free, but the alternative is more innocent people in prison.

This is not just true of rape, but all crimes. There is no perfect system, it has to either error on the side of letting some guilty go free, or err on the side of innocent people going to prison.

MrsKCastle Sat 06-Jun-15 11:15:19

I think it should stay as 'beyond all reasonable doubt'.

Of course it would be brilliant to have more rapists convicted, but I think changing the standards would make the general public even more suspicious of victims. As a previous poster suggested, you'd get opinions like 'Well, ok, he was convicted, but that doesn't mean much in a rape case, does it?'

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