Having acknowledged that anyone begins a piece with the words ‘Don’t get me wrong, …’ runs the risk of falling foul of the quotation from Shakespeare’s Hamlet ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks …’ and/or the natural cynicism that accompanies anyone’s dinner party intervention “With respect, …” which usually indicates that in fact respect is the very last thing the speaker is applying the opinion to which he or she is responding, I am nevertheless entertaining the lists today with …
Don’t get me wrong – as a mere man, I am all for rapists being brought to book and if necessary being incarcerated with the cell keys being automatically thrown away for life – but, by the same token, I have been rendered deeply uneasy by the measures being proposed (or is it ‘about to be implemented’) by the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders, as have been announced this week.
Apparently these have been prompted by the perception that, although recent changes to law and police procedures have resulted in a significant increase in reports of rapes being registered, this has not yet translated itself into a corresponding hike in cases being brought to court and/or ending in convictions secured.
In this regard, I simply return to two basic principles of English and Welsh law that go back many centuries. Firstly, and inevitably, that ‘A man (or woman) is innocent until proven guilty’; and secondly that, (the reporting of court proceedings angle) whilst it is both understandable and right that any woman allegedly raped should remain anonymous, it nevertheless seems to me deeply unsatisfactory that the name of an accused rapist can be made public before a case is heard and/or a verdict of guilty secured.
My case is not that attempts by the authorities to improve the percentage of rape allegations that eventually result in convictions (I believe a figure of as little as 6% has been published) should not be made, simply that hacking away at august principles of criminal law with measures that skew the legal system into illogical, unnatural and inequitable places is not the way to go.
In which context, today I would like to bring to the attention of readers of the Rust this hard-hitting article by Sarah Vine – wife of Michael Gove, sometime Coalition (Tory) Education Secretary, of course – which appears on the website of the DAILY MAIL