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Does innocent until proven guilty only apply to certain people/crimes?

(49 Posts)
AVirginLitTheCandle Sun 23-Oct-16 23:42:33

I'm not sure why I'm posting this tbh and I'm not even competley sure what my point is but this has been going through my head recently and I feel like I need to write it down.

Why is it that any time a man who has been accused of rape doesn't get convicted, whether that's the allegation being withdrawn by the accuser, a not guilty verdict delivered or the police/CPS dropping the case before it even gets to court, does everyone suddenly label it a false allegation? Why are there suddenly cries of "send the lying bitch to jail!", "his accuser should be charged", "she should now be named and shamed", etc?

I honestly don't get it. Surely if people are innocent until proven guilty then that applies to everyone and works both ways? Isn't it a bit hypocritical to say that men accused of rape are innocent until proven guilty but women who you think/suspect have made a false rape accusation aren't innocent until proven guilty? They're just automatically guilty of wasting police time and perverting the course of justice (I think those would be the two criminal offences a false rape accusation would come under) by default of simply not being able to prove she was in fact raped.

I've lost count of the number of times I've read news reports about men being falsely accused of rape but when I've actually read the article it wasn't actually proven to be false. I would say a good 99% of stories I've read about so called false accusations are simply cases where the accused wasn't convicted.

Does that make any sense at all?

AVirginLitTheCandle Sun 23-Oct-16 23:45:15

Surely it would be more accurate to just say that he was accused of rape or accused of rape but not convicted or something similar? Why the need to add say he was falsely accused when there is no proof the accusations were false?

AVirginLitTheCandle Sun 23-Oct-16 23:51:38

And why is it only accusations of rape that don't result in a convictions that are labelled false accusations?

If someone was to accuse someone else of any other crime (no matter how stigmatized that crime may be). If that case ended up going to trial but the accused was found not guilty why doesn't that then get labelled a false accusation? Why aren't there cries of outrage from people and calls for the accuser to get sent to jail?

Queenoftheblues Mon 24-Oct-16 00:35:59

Because this country doesn't really like women.
By bringing a case to court the cps understands there is strong enough evidence against the defendant. All a not guilty verdict means is the evidence didn't stand up. All a defence lawyer has to do is raise a little doubt. None of us want to convict an innocent person.
A rape victim gets compensation even if it's a non guilty verdict. This is based on "the probability" the crime did happen. So not guilty doesn't mean innocent at all. Innocent is when the complainant is found guilty of bringing false allegations.

growapear Mon 24-Oct-16 08:42:00

I think in rape cases it comes down to the contrary accounts. In CE case e.g. if you believe his account of it then it follows that she was enthusiastic about it and that therefore her claim is false.

The jury often have to believe one or the other and unless the accused says "I'm sorry i thought I had consent when I didn't" etc...

growapear Mon 24-Oct-16 08:48:57

* not her claim of course, apologies.

HalloToJasonIsaacs Mon 24-Oct-16 08:52:58

There are loads of rape scenarios where both the individuals concerned can be telling the truth.

In particular in the Ched Evans case the alleged victim never said she was raped at all - as I understand it she came in to report a missing handbag with huge gaps in her memory and the police and CPS took it from there helped by all the accusers' phone records.

Felascloak Mon 24-Oct-16 08:53:31

But surely the point is the jury don't have to believe it's true, they have to believe beyono reasonable doubt that it's not true to convict.
Lots of people I know who've done jury service say things like "I thought they were probably guilty but not sure beyond readonable doubt so I couldn't find them guilty"

growapear Mon 24-Oct-16 09:31:34

You cannot be enthusiastically participating in sex and be being raped at the same time. Now, one reason to find CE guilty would be to think he lied about what happened in the hotel room. I know this thread is not about him so don't want to derail, but that is why I would have found him guilty, which implies he lied under oath, I don't see how you could otherwise believe beyond all reasonable doubt he's guilty. His account has to be false, it's a binary choice ?

thedancingbear Mon 24-Oct-16 09:41:48

You cannot be enthusiastically participating in sex and be being raped at the same time. Now, one reason to find CE guilty would be to think he lied about what happened in the hotel room

That's not necessarily true though, is it? Someone could participate enthusiastically but very drunkenly (as in too drunk to consent).

VikingVolva Mon 24-Oct-16 09:48:28

It can apply to all cases and has done - the one whicjph jumps to mind is Christopher Jefferies, but it happens in a smaller way all the time. It's reputation-wrecking because, even if when charges are dropped there can still be a whiff of 'no smoke without fire' etc. And even when people finally do believe you, it may still be the first thing people think of.

When names are somehow released before charges have been made, it's even worse.

Yes, it does tend to happen only for the most heinous of crimes - which I think may be tabloid-speak for rape and murder - because very little else makes it to the papers.

growapear Mon 24-Oct-16 14:41:58


I'm confused about your comment, I think someone enthusiastically having sex and enjoying it whilst drunk is not being raped. Perhaps I am being naive. If you are sober enough to actively participate in something you find pleasurable how is that too drunk too consent?

OneFlewOverTheDodosNest Mon 24-Oct-16 15:34:47

I believe in Scotland they have a "not proven" verdict either instead or as well as "not guilty" which I imagine would clear up the confusion.

Either way, innocent until proven guilty is a legal requirement, and a requirement of publishing rather than a requirement of personal opinion. So a person can legally say "in my opinion x is guilty of y" but I don't believe that a paper could publish the same. Happy to be corrected on that though.

thedancingbear Mon 24-Oct-16 16:28:04

I'm confused about your comment, I think someone enthusiastically having sex and enjoying it whilst drunk is not being raped. Perhaps I am being naive. If you are sober enough to actively participate in something you find pleasurable how is that too drunk too consent?

In my younger days I've danced, argued vociferously with a spanish puppeteer, and lay enthusiastically in the middle of an a-road (not necessarily all on the same occasion) whilst frankly incoherent through drink. There is no way in the world any reasonable person could have seen me in this state and deemed me fit to consent to penetrative sex.

growapear Mon 24-Oct-16 16:52:47

Hmm I see what you're saying but I think a woman who wanted sex when drunk, had it and enjoyed it would not then get up in the morning and claim they were raped ? Also someone who is incoherently drunk would not enjoy sex I would imagine.

growapear Mon 24-Oct-16 17:02:26

...and I struggle with the idea that you can simultaneously be having great, wanted sex, but also be being raped due to your diminished mental state. Am I being stupid ? I should add that in my experience sex when that drunk just doesn't work...I.e. it's quickly realised to be a bad idea. Al's someone that drunk would pass out on contact with a soft bed.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Mon 24-Oct-16 17:50:58

I believe in Scotland they have a "not proven" verdict either instead or as well as "not guilty" which I imagine would clear up the confusion

No , not really. No one seems to know/ agree what "not proven" really means or that it is in any way distinguishable from "not guilty".

I'm shamelessly copying and pasting from Wikipedia. The bit in italics is Wiki- the Tom Archer/Clive Ponting examples are mine to try to explain what the historic difference was.

As you can see from Wiki the verdicts were originally "proven" or "not proven" but a jury decided ìn a "proven" case to opt for "not guilty" Lord knows what the case is but the modern equivalent would be say the fictional case of Tom Archer destroying GM crops or the real case of Clive Ponting leaking information - they definitely did it but jury found them "not guilty". The Crown did prove its case but the jury found them not guilty. Historically a "not guilty" verdict meant the case had been proven but the jury did not find them guilty.

Historically, the two verdicts available to Scots juries were that the case had been "proven" or "not proven". However, in a dramatic case in 1728 the jury asserted "its ancient right" to bring in a "not guilty" verdict even when the facts of the case were proven . As the "not guilty" verdict gained wide acceptance amongst Scots juries, Scots began to use "not guilty" in cases where the jury felt the "not proven" verdict did not adequately express the innocence of the person on trial. Shrewd defence then further encouraged this interpretation in order to persuade juries unwilling to bring in a "not guilty" verdict that the "not proven" could be brought in as a lesser or "third verdict".

The result is the modern perception that the "not proven" verdict is an acquittal used when the judge or jury does not have enough evidence to convict but is not sufficiently convinced of the accused person's innocence to bring in a "not guilty" verdict. Essentially, the judge or jury is unconvinced that the suspect is innocent, but has insufficient evidence to the contrary

HillaryFTW Mon 24-Oct-16 20:06:58

Grow, it is possible for a jury to believe a woman has been raped (penetrated without consent or without her having the freedom or capacity to consent) WHILST finding the man not guilty of rape, because "reasonable belief in consent" is a defence to the charge of rape. That does not mean the belief can't be mistaken, just that the jury find it was belief on a reasonable basis.

The clearest cut example is the case where a man went into what he apparently thought was his girlfriend's hotel room and penetrated the woman sleeping there, let's call her X. It was the wrong room.

Neither side contested that he didn't have consent from X (meaning that X was, de facto, raped - penetrated without consent). His defence was that of reasonable belief.

HillaryFTW Mon 24-Oct-16 20:10:58

So in the CE/CM case, if there was (let's say) an objective test for intoxication that negated consent and the victim's blood alcohol level exceeded that, then she could not have consented, whatever her actions. The description of her actions could (and did) still provide a defence of reasonable belief.

IMO, the actions taken by both men were recklessly short of any bar to establish reasonable belief in consent, in particular those of CE.

HillaryFTW Mon 24-Oct-16 20:14:01

Oh, and welcome to MN.

Felascloak Mon 24-Oct-16 20:15:49

You cannot be enthusiastically participating in sex and be being raped at the same time.
The jury could suspect the defendant was lying about enthusiastic consent but not be sure they were lying though.

HillaryFTW Mon 24-Oct-16 20:17:44

Indeed, Felas.

WomanWithAltitude Mon 24-Oct-16 20:17:57

Because this country doesn't really like women.

Spon on. It's simply misogyny.

HillaryFTW Mon 24-Oct-16 20:20:02

I wonder if any studies have ever been done to ask juries to "vote" twice, once on "beyond reasonable doubt" and after on " balance of probabilities" or other "pretty sure but not totally sure" criteria. I would be interested to know the difference in outcomes.

growapear Mon 24-Oct-16 20:21:29


Yes - i am aware that it is technically possible for a man to apparently believe a woman consented to him having sex with her, even when she didn't. So she was raped, but he supposedly had "reasonable belief" she consented. So committed rape, but not a rapist. Difficult logical situation there.

I'm not trying to muddy the waters here, i get criticised for being a bit black and white in my thinking, i have a black and white view of rape. I can't fathom how you can have sex with someone and not realise they don't want you to, just doesn't seem believable to me. I don't know what the answer is - but in the case of CE, I think one just has to consider whether it's likely that someone so drunk as the victim was would be enjoying and enthusiastically participating in sex a few hours before she woke up in her own urine with no idea where she was or how she got there. It doesn't seem to me that that is believable, but that was his defence, and the jury apparently believed that he at least might be telling the truth. So i think that the "reasonable belief" in consent is problematic. The only way that a man could have reasonable belief a woman consented is if she pretended to enjoy it for the whole time. Perhaps this kind of thinking is what leads people to think "lying bitches" and perhaps they have complete faith in the justice system ?

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