Calamity Clarke Strike Again

I have sat in dismay as I have listened to, and read, the disastrous efforts Ken Clarke has made at justifying sentence reduction for rapists over the past 36 hours. The word “serious” has been debated across the country and rightly so. Rape is a serious crime and people including ministers do need reminding of the seriousness of this crime.

However, it wasn’t the differentiation of the seriousness of different rapes that offended me most, but the suggestion that only violent rapes were serious and indeed deserved higher sentencing.

Isn’t it equally as frightening to be violated and abused by someone that you know and trust as it must be by a stranger? Doesn’t all rape regardless of the violence leave years of psychological damage that can effect every aspect of a female’s life? Am I wrong in thinking that rape is violent in itself and you don’t need bruises or broken bones to determine this violence.

72% of rapes in the UK are committed by an acquaintance or intimate of the victim, 74% take place indoors, such as the victim or attacker’s home, and nearly half involve no additional physical injury beyond the rape itself (Muir, 2003). This statistic may be  little outdated, but was quoted by a radio journalist just this morning and still valid.

Therefore, I feel would be more beneficial for the Justice Secretary to be considering policy that reflects the above statistics and, considers the long term damage that rape inflict, rather than implementing a cost saving exercise that rewards rapists for owning up.

Bunty

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6 Comments to “Calamity Clarke Strike Again”

  1. Bunty – I thank you for introducing a topic of much interest to me – but I’m afraid you are picking on someone I simply adore so I will have to disagree (and agree) with some of the points you make!

    First of all, serious crimes are serious and all forms of rape is serious. Ken reiterated this several times and his comments were taken out of context. The average sentence that is served for raping someone is 8 years, which I am sure you will agree is a long time.

    You have to accept that some forms of rape are MORE serious than others – just as killing someone by accident is different to killing your wife before she divorces you or killing your husband before he beats you up.

    Ken used the example of a 17 year old having consensual sex with a 15 year old girl. Because the 15 year old is unable to consent, this is a form of rape. I’ll use another example, Julian Assange the wiki guy, is on charges of raping a woman who he had just had sex with and she was lying naked next to him in bed and presumably she would have sex with him in the future but he had sex with her while she was asleep – this is of course rape and if true is a disgusting a serious violation of her…

    However, that cannot be the same thing as a man who breaks into someone’s house and rapes them – or a man who rapes a mentally disabled woman in a care home, or a teacher who has sex with a 15 year old girl.

    There are aggravating factors and mitigating factors.

    Currently a rapist can have a third knocked off his sentence if he pleads guilty before trial – but Ken’s point was that a rapist gets this concession even if he pleads guilty the day before trial. By that point the victim could have had two years of further trauma at the thought of going to trial. His idea was simply to reduce the sentence by a further 17% to half IF the man pleads guilty from the beginning, ie when he is charged. It was only an idea and if everyone disagrees, he won’t do it.

    Ken has been in government for many years and has also been a lawyer dealing with rape cases – during all of that time he has never once received any bad press from victims of rape saying he is insenstivie, doesn’t appreciate their needs etc. For example, he was recently responsible for increasing the money that rape centres get but that doesn’t receive any press as it’s good news.

    Ed Milliband is a joke asking for him to be sacked, David Cameron is untrustworthy and Nick Clegg is a weasel. It’s politicians like Ken and Shirley Williams that actually make me think that the government might actually still be doing something useful.

  2. The press just love an ‘off with his head story’ don’t they? Vakeel bibi thanks for informing us of positive action ken Clarke has taken.
    Something else I hope he takes action on is Britain’s apalling rape conviction rate currently 6% and many women don’t even report the crime.
    One week and two huge rape stories on either side of the Atlantic. Let’s hope the justice system starts taking the crime more seriously.

  3. Hi Vakeel Bibi,

    Thank you so much for your extremely valid and purposeful comments.

    As Ken Clarke yesterday admitted on Question Time, it was a poor choice of words and an engagement in an argument with the 5 live presenter that led him down a sticky path.

    I too have a lot of admiration for Ken Clarke for the 40 years of work that he has put into the public service. However, that does not mean that I am not able to criticise him and offer another opinion. The most positive thing that Ken has achieved out of all of this is a public debate on rape. This is a really good thing as I said in my article.

    I appreciate that in sentencing some rapes are considered more serious than others, but unless you have been a victim of rape, you cannot say that an non-violent incident is any less serious than a violent one. The psychological damage really needs to be considered and maybe in the case for rape, each assault needs to be assessed individually.

    Having listened yesterday to many victims on radio that had’t suffered physical assaults on them and as I said that the majority of rapes are not violent, I think it is important that policy addresses this. I have yet to hear of a victim of rape thinking that a reduction in sentence is a good thing. It is all very good lawyers thinking they are reducing the court room trauma but until a real survey with rape groups can verify that this is a good thing, I am still inclined to believe that this is a cost cutting measure.

    Thank you however for pointing out all of the good Ken has done for rape victims as I know he has. Personally, I thought it was awful that Ed called for his head and I do not think that this incident should see him out of office.. That would be a real loss to politics.

    On consensual sex with a child (17 year old boy with a 15 year girl) Jennifer Temkin, Professor of Law and author of Sexual Assault and the Justice Gap, said on BBC London that the Justice Secretary was incorrect in calling this rape. It has never been rape. According the 2003 Sexual Offences Act it is offence number 9, Sexual Activity With a Child. This is not seen by the law as rape. Maybe this can be verified by other experts. However, if this is incorrect as Jennifer Temkin says, then it does concern me that, a lawyer who has been dealing with rape cases and is now Justice Secretary, could get this wrong.

  4. Agree with everything you say – just in case you’re interested I think the distinction is that a 17 year old having sex with a 15 year old is simply unlawful sex – it is a form of rape per se (but not treated as one) because the child is unable to consent. There is a distinction to be drawn for example to have sex with child who is 12 years old.

    I agree that this is a cost-cutting measure by the way .. I don’t trust the tories one jot! However, always thinking of the victim is not how society should progress – otherwise we would have public hangings for paedophiles. I know I sound insensitive, I hope you believe that I am not.

    and finally .. this is truly awful to even think of being raped but I know that I would not report it .. would you?

    p.s. love the debate!!

    • Thanks for clarification. Yes, I am interested. This is an issue that tugs at me all the time.

      I wish there was a party I did trust. I was extremely disappointed in all party leaders over this as I felt they all left Ken to hang himself and I was delighted that he came on Question Time last night and made his stance clear.

      I agree that not always thinking about the victims is not how society progresses but on this issue there does need to be serious consultation with victims’ groups. You are not sounding insensitive just pragmatic and that is a good thing.

      My stance on this comes as I know someone who was raped by their uncle. Their was no violence but it left this young person in pieces which she has never recovered from. She never reported it because she wasn’t believed by her own mother, she was too frightened and ashamed. It makes my blood boil that she not only went through this ordeal but then had to be at family functions, community events with him present and even have this man in her family home as if nothing had ever happened.

      Vakeel Bibi, I don’t know what I would do if I was ever in this situation. I hope that I would report it, because that is what I believe in but when the time comes, I just don’t know if I would be strong enough.

      Yes, I too love this debate and it is great to get other perspectives on such a difficult and important issue. I am so pleased to be discussing this with you.

  5. Your friend who was raped by their uncle would not be any better or worse off with these new proposed sentencing guidelines. so the argument that some rapes are more serious than others is a correct assertion in my belief.

    My heart goes out to your friend however – imagine your own mother doubting you like that.

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