Rape prosecutions fell by 30 per cent last year, which, according to angry campaigners for women’s rights, effectively means the “decriminalisation of rape”.
If so, you can count on my support, ladies: rape is a heinous crime, and decriminalising it can’t be justified. But first I’ve got to look at the facts and figure out what they mean. It’s that little idiosyncrasy of mine: I must go through that routine before forming a view.
The numbers come in two sets. The first is the infuriating fall in rape prosecutions in the past 12 months, which indeed amounts to 30 per cent. Even a bit more.
A sip of Laphroaig to settle my nerves, frayed by that discovery, and I’m ready to look at the second set. And yes, the 1,439 convictions obtained over the past 12 months is the lowest number in five years.
However, we find out that the conviction rate for rape over the past 12 months was 68.5 per cent – compared to 63.5 per cent last year and 57 per cent five years ago. In other words, more than two thirds of the men tried for rape over the past year were convicted.
However, the aforementioned campaigners make an irrefutable mathematical point: if two thirds were convicted, a third were acquitted. And to them anything under a 100 per cent conviction rate constitutes a denial of justice.
While the progressive person in me desperately wants to agree, the cold-blooded thinker puts the dampeners on. For no crime category produces the conviction rate all progressive people crave.
Overall, prosecutions for all crimes in the UK deliver about an 80 per cent conviction rate, which is somewhat higher than the almost 70 per cent in rape cases. But rape isn’t really like all other crimes.
For one thing, prosecutions are still brought, and conviction obtained, on an evidential basis. Thus, if the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) feels the evidence is weak, it won’t prosecute. If the evidence is good enough for prosecution but not for conviction, the jury won’t convict. Agreed?
Good. Then you must also agree that, whatever the crime, if every accusation resulted in prosecution and every prosecution in a conviction, we’d be miraculously transported to a very different country from Britain. That country would be a tyranny to end all tyrannies. Such a high rate was never obtained even in Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China.
A country ruled by law insists on strong evidence of wrongdoing before it punishes the wrongdoers. And getting such evidence in rape cases is notoriously hard.
That crime is usually committed without witnesses, which already makes things difficult. Unless some physical evidence exists, it’s the woman’s word against the man’s. The woman’s word may be her bond, but neither the CPS nor the courts can proceed solely on that assumption.
Even if physical evidence existed in the first place, it tends to disappear over time. In most cases, it disappears within days, to say nothing of weeks, months or years. However, for variously valid reasons, many victims are reluctant to report the crime immediately, sometimes waiting weeks, months or years.
Simon, a barrister friend of mine, recently had to try an 85-year-old man charged with rape committed over 60 years ago. As a result, Simon is seriously considering quitting criminal law.
Moreover, and I hurt inside for having to say this, some women bring up accusations of rape or sexual assault frivolously – at times, and here the inner pain becomes unbearable, fraudulently. In this they are helped by the steadily broadening concept of such crimes.
For example, two colleagues may check into a hotel room after work (not a hypothetical case), undress, get in bed, engage in prolonged foreplay followed by intercourse but, if the woman gasps ‘stop’ at the very point of no return and the man doesn’t stop, he goes to prison for rape.
If a husband assumes that a marriage licence is a licence to hanky-panky and dismisses his wife’s claim of a headache, he’s a rapist, barely distinguishable from a savage who jumps a passerby in a dark street. And so on.
Sexual assault is even worse. An uninvited pat on a woman’s behind at a party or a hand on her thigh at dinner are now treated as felonies, not just overly aggressive courtship. As we speak, a senior Tory MP is about to be charged with assault for trying to kiss one woman, putting his hand on another’s leg and using his position to have a year-long affair with a parliamentary staffer.
The latter woman claims rape because she feared that turning the libidinous MP down might damage her career. I must say I don’t understand.
The current belief is that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman, worse than even maiming or death. If so, a damaged career looks rather trivial by comparison, wouldn’t you say? I know what my choice would be.
Then again, an exchange of sexual favours for career advancement, a leg-over for a leg-up, goes back at least to Abraham’s wife Sarah, who pretended to be his sister so she could become the pharaoh’s concubine (“And he entreated Abraham well for her sake” Gen. 12-16).
None of this is to deny that rape, sensibly defined, is a brutal crime. However, rape is unlike any other brutal crime not just because it’s often hard to prove. Like racism and homophobia (also defined so broadly as to lose any meaning whatsoever), rape is a crime committed not just against its victim, but against the dominant ideology of our time.
All such ideologies are concocted to create fault lines in society by fostering alienation between classes, races – and sexes. Hence it’s essential to indoctrinate the populace in the belief that the relationship between men and women is inherently adversarial, not complementary.
Broadening the definition of rape and sexual assault is as instrumental there as insisting, against common sense and indeed sanity, that a woman’s statement is all the proof needed for prosecution and conviction. Never mind the rule of law; feel the ideology.
Going back to the two sets of numbers cited above, they represent a step in the sane direction. The CPS is beginning to apply tighter standards to rape evidence, which is why the number of prosecutions goes down but the conviction rate goes up.
The CPS has been allowed to get away with that so far, but I fear that before long a simple denunciation will suffice for prosecutions and convictions. As someone who grew up in the Soviet Union, I’ve seen it all before.