There is a lot of Rape Awareness around at the moment – this post is written in response to the ongoing campaigns. Please note that it is my limited opinions. I welcome any corrections. #letthedebatecommence
Apparently, 94% of charges of sexual assault and rape result in a verdict of not guilty.
In my humble opinion, first, and foremost, what you need to know is the British Criminal Justice system is neither about truth, or justice, despite the stated mandates – it is about winning. It is about two teams pitched against each other. Black versus white. The Crown (not the claimant) versus the defendant. You also need to be aware that a British crown court is not a court of morals. It is a court of law.
The process is such. The claimant makes an allegation, is granted anonymity and complete immunity, the police investigate, the Crown Prosecution service decide to prosecute if the threshold is met. The defendant is then charged and the legal process is set in motion. In the UK the penalties for being found guilty are very serious for sexual assault alone, I think, can result in up to 2 years imprisonment, and 7 years on the sexual offenders register. The claimant bears no cost for the criminal action that has been initiated. This is covered by the Crown.
To privately defend costs tens of thousands of pounds. Most defendants get what they are given through the legal aid process. The British tax payer bears the majority of the cost for the Crown Prosecution Services decisions to prosecute. In British law the defendant is innocent until proven guilty but the reality is that once the allegation is made the defendant is tarred with blackness of doubt and suspicion, probably forever more, even after the verdict. The defendant is not granted anonymity.
In British law the legal definition of Rape is as follows:
A person (A) commits an offence if:
– he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis
– B does not consent to the penetration, and
– A does not reasonably believe that B consents.
The claimant does not get direct legal representation; although they do get to meet the Crown’s allocated barrister on the day of their testimony, and they are made aware of the defendant’s defence statement. The statement the claimant makes to the police is their one shot to put their side of the story across. This is their allegation and they may not at any point during the process deviate from it. This is what they must accurately relay in court however, many months later.
The burden of proof is high. The Crown must prove beyond all reasonably doubt that all aspects of the law stated above have been contravened. The defendant may make one statement to the police, a different statement in the defence statement and a different statement in court and still be acquitted.
The British court system comes down who does the jury believe more – the defendant or the claimant. Make no mistake court is theatre. The case is reduced to the edited highlights and the truth of the situation becomes blurred as the advocates on both sides trim the fat to suit their end gains. It becomes chesslike as they battle to convince the judge, not the jury, of case law to get the indictments changed to their advantage. This is done in front of the bench. Precedent versus precedent.
To some extent the claimant is on trial as much as the defendant and they are subject to a ruthless cross-examination. To make these allegations is very serious and the costs are high if the defendant is found wanting. It is part of the trial process that the claimant should be subject to a diligent scrutiny of their allegations.
Until recently, I thought that rape and sexual assault were about consent but it is not. If it was only down to consent then, in my opinion, the conviction rate would be higher. The challenge point is ‘reasonable belief’ the claimant would consent. This weakens the majority of cases.
But my belief is this. Should a claimant decide to seek justice for rape and sexual assault through the British justice system and they want to ‘win’- they must do their homework, read up on the law, attend trials and understand the system. It is important that you understand that court is theatre. If you want truth and justice you won’t necessarily find it in court; if you are a claimant, or even a defendant; but if you want victory, like any competition, the sad truth is you need to learn to play the game.
The post is in response to the Rape Awareness Week over at In The Powder Room this week.