Saturday, 21 May 2011

This Ken Clarke / Rape nonsense ...

I wasn't going to say anything about Ken Clarke's blundering comments about 'degrees of rape' but the brouhaha doesn;t seem to be going away, so I might as well join the hysterical throng shrieking and gibbering.

First of all, the Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, was undountedly being opportunistic in focusing on this issue and calling for Clarke to resign. On the other it's been effective. Clarke has being forced from patrician bluster to sniveling apology, and Cameron has been exposed as a spineless PR obsessed vacuity who won't back his man. Clarke - one of the more sane members of the cabinet - is looking even more isolated than before. Good result for the boys, you might say, for all that it wasn't very sportingly done.

I'm much more perturbed that Ken Clarke, the Justice minister and an ex-lawyer, doesn't seem to know the rudiments of law:
Clarke, who is already under fire from the Tory right over his plans to reduce the number of prison places, sparked fury among victims' and women's groups when he tried to distinguish between more and less serious forms of rape.

In response to the comment "rape is rape" during a BBC interview, he replied: "No it's not – if an 18-year-old has sex with a 15-year-old and she's perfectly willing, that is rape. Because she is under age, she can't consent. What you and I are talking about is … about a man forcibly having sex with a woman and she doesn't want to – a serious crime." (1)
A 18 year old having consensual sex with a 15 year old isn't rape. It would count as some other form of sexual offending, but isn't rape. The sexual offenses Act 2003 defines rape as:
A person (A) commits an offence if—

(a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis,
(b) B does not consent to the penetration, and
(c) A does not reasonably believe that B consents. (2)
There IS an age limit below which the clause about consent is removed (meaning it is rape whether or not he/she agreed to it). But it is THIRTEEN:
A person commits an offence if—

(a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person with his penis, and
(b) the other person is under 13. (3)
To count as rape-inspite-of-consent, Clarke would have had to cite a 14 year old having sex with his 11 year old girlfriend. That's a bit more quease inducing than the 18/15 scenario he described.

As I said, I'm more perturbed by Clarke's blundering with this than with the silly brouhaha surrounding his remarks. Pretty poor for the Justice minister and a former lawyer.

As far as I'm concerned, the only fuss is that Ken Clarke either doesn't have the foggiest about Stuff Relating To Things He's Responsible For, or is so sozzled by 7am he can't speak without rambling off into Stuff That's Just Not True. Neither is a good look for a cabinet minister, ex-lawyer, and one of the supposedly more excellent chaps in government.

The frightening thing is, other people seem to be blundering into the same error. Craig Murry - who I used to have some respect for , before he went all hysterical and ssilly over the Julian ASsange rape charges - also falls into the same trap:
Anybody who stabs someone or rapes someone deserves real punishment. But are all cases of rape or stabbing identical in quality? The notion is absurd. And the fact that a girl aged 16 years and one day is guilty of rape if she sleeps with her boyfriend age 15 years and 364 days is irrefutable proof of that (a point Clarke appeared to get slightly tongue muddled as he made it, talking of two 17 year olds). (4)
Murray is the one getting muddled, as he's continuing to repeat the error that an 18 year old having sex with a 15 year old is rape, under English law. Clarke, at least, had the vague excuse that he was talking ex tempore (though as the minister for Justice and a former lawyer, he should have known what he was talking about). Murray has blundered in cold blood, as it were.

As for the wider fuss, it's mostly beside the point. Clarke's proposals are actually quite sensible, and only extending an idea already presently recognized in law.

Calling for Clarke's resignation was shameless behaviour by Ed Miliband. But it's worked out well for him, hasn't it? Clarke chastened, Cameron exposed as a craven toady to the headlines. Clarke will probably be stood down after a decent interval, allowing some rightwing dolt to take over the portfolio, alienating the wittering limp wristed vote (who are the only one's who upset about Miliband's opportunism) and infuriating the Lib Dems, further 'tensioning' the coalition. Even rightwing tubes such as yourself must be slightly disappointed with cameron's failure to stand by his man, in the face of such a weak attack. But he caved in at the first whiff of SCANDAL and DISAPPROVAL in the headlines, demonstrating a lack of backbone that would make Tony Blair look like Horatio on the bridge.
1 - "Clarke forced to apologise for rape comments," by Alan Travis and Nicholas Watt. Published in The Guardian, 18th of May, 2011. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/may/18/kenneth-clarke-apologises-rape-comments)
2 - "Sexual Offences Act 2003," Section 1. (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/section/1)
3 - "Sexual Offences Act 2003," Section 1. (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/section/5)
4 - At the time of composing, Craig's blog appears to be down. I C&Ped the comment from another cite, but can't link back to the original.

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