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Tory dismissal of rape victims is only the start


6:53 pm - July 14th 2010

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contribution by Jaine Doe

This week the leader of Croydon Council, has announced his decision to cut Croydon’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre budget by £27,000 a year, while awarding themselves a big pay-rise.

Firstly, it’s outrageous and almost unbelievable that Croydon’s RASASC is one of only two in the whole of London, the other being newly established in Ealing, meaning that, for however long, Croydon’s RASASC has been the only one of its kind in the capital.

All the story really serves to do is to foreground an emerging trend that has gathered haste since the election in May.

This trend sees the predominantly Tory coalition government impose its cuts, driven by ideology not, as they would have us believe, by the global economic climate, target the most vulnerable and, in most cases, poorest people in our society.

This includes single-mothers, single women and, pretty much all women with the exception of those who are upper middle-class wives living in Cheshire (which happens to be Mr Osborne’s constituency, would you Adam ‘n Eve it).

In 2007-08 a total of 851 rape prosecutions were brought to court and, of those, only 387 resulted in a conviction. This is the same capital city where 25% of all of the rapes in the country take place.

These statistics are enough to be getting on with – as a feminist and, more importantly, as a woman, it is a very difficult idea to digest that the law has not, does not and, it seems, will not for the foreseeable future, legislate properly so that the law is on the side of the victim.

Croydon Council leader, Mike Fisher, is cutting the RASASC’s funding by £27,000 whilst increasing his own pay along with some other top Tory counselors. The fact that he has increased his own (and others’) pay-packet is, whilst inflammatory, especially in the wake of the MP’s expenses scandal, it’s ultimately irrelevant to the RASASC.

As a resident of Croydon, I am appalled but, in all honesty, no more appalled than I would have been if I lived in Cheshire, or anywhere else for that matter.

What bugs me the most is that I know this is just the beginning. The coalition has only been in power for a month and some change and already it’s looking pretty bloody awful to say the least. I vaguely remember the days (when I was very small) when my own single-mother would shout expletives at the TV every time Michael Portillo’s face appeared.

In fact, for quite some time I was half-convinced he may even be my father for, I wondered, what on Earth he could have done that could provoke such a strong reaction from a relatively mild-mannered woman in front of her small child.

It was only much later that I realized he was in fact not my father but, low and behold, John Major’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury in the early ‘90s who imposed a string of state cuts on the poorest and most vulnerable people in society whilst ranting about feckless teenage girls getting themselves pregnant everywhere he went.


If you’re angry about it too – email Mr Fisher directly at mike.fisher@croydon.gov.uk (model letter)
A long version of this article is at Jaine Doe’s blog.

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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Feminism ,Sex equality

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Reader comments


1. Matt Munro

You seem to be making a connection between funding for the crisis centre and rape conviction rates. Are you sure the two correlate ?

It’s also worth pointing out that excessive pay rises aren’t confined to tory councils (see Newham for example)

2. Matt Munro

“it is a very difficult idea to digest that the law has not, does not and, it seems, will not for the foreseeable future, legislate properly so that the law is on the side of the victim.”

But the law isn’t supposed to be on anyones “side”, it’s supposed to be blind and impartial.

In 2007-08 a total of 851 rape prosecutions were brought to court and, of those, only 387 resulted in a conviction. This is the same capital city where 25% of all of the rapes in the country take place.

These statistics are enough to be getting on with – as a feminist and, more importantly, as a woman, it is a very difficult idea to digest that the law has not, does not and, it seems, will not for the foreseeable future, legislate properly so that the law is on the side of the victim.What does “legislate properly so that the law is on the side of the victim” mean?

Here is a review of rape in London in 2005:

1.2. This Review has found that 87% of victims who reported rape to the MPS had at least one of four vulnerabilities: under 18 years old, noted to have mental health issues, had ingested alcohol prior to the rape and/or had previously been, or were, in an intimate domestic relationship with their attackers.

1.3. It appears that the way in which vulnerability influenced the outcome at each of the attrition pinch points had a cumulative effect, impacting most significantly on the most vulnerable rape victims.

4.11. What this review shows is that those victims who had none of the above vulnerabilities were more likely to have a better outcome in the criminal justice process. Nevertheless, very few of the rape allegations made by these victims resulted in convictions (attrition remained a significant problem).

It is worth reading a paper by Finch and Munro to consider what may happen in a jury deliberation in relation to rape and “choice, freedom and capacity”:

As the participants’ approach to the question of reasonable belief in the present study illustrates all too clearly, progress in this area requires continued effort, not only through criminal law, but also at the level of social attitudes.

5. gwenhwyfaer

Matt Munro, you keep using that word, “impartial”. I do not think it means what you think it means.

@Matt Munro

The correlation is that if a woman has somewhere to go after a horrendous ordeal where she is respected and comforted and supported then she might feel more in a position to make a claim to the police. If the woman has no such place, and has to go on living in fear without support, then they might be more likely to leave the crime unreported.

Once again the tory trolls are defending rapists.

Why?

Because they hate woman. Always have done and always will.

8. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

legislate properly so that the law is on the side of the victim.

Favouring one party over the other before you’ve even started wouldn’t be ‘legislating properly’ would it.

Did RASASC not get a funding boost of about £260,000 from Boris last year? If so, how can you describe this as “cutting services”, when their budget will have gone up hugely from last year?

@MattMunro: “It’s also worth pointing out that excessive pay rises aren’t confined to tory councils”

No it’s not. It’s actually completely irrelevant to the topic at hand. You need a better hobby.

Favouring one party over the other before you’ve even started wouldn’t be ‘legislating properly’ would it

Criminal law is supposed to be on the side of the victims of crime and against those who perpetrate it. In the interests of both justice and the reduction in the number of future victims it is of course entirely right that there are safeguards and precautions to reduce the chance of an innocent person being convicted, thus letting the real perpetrator remain free, but this does not mean that the law has to treat suspects and victims of crime in the same way.

Civil law does have balance and impartiality in the sense you speak of (and a lower “balance of probabilities” requirement for decisions, of course) but this is not a civil law matter.

Criminal law is supposed to be on the side of the victims of crime and against those who perpetrate it.

No it isn’t. The role of the victim in criminal law is an incidental and provative one only. The entire point of the criminal law is that it is the state that is damaged, and the state that prosecutes. Hence why cases are referred to as R v Jones, and not Victim v Jones.

It is, in fact, the civil law that is supposed to be on the side of the victim, and against those who breach the law. The whole point of civil law is to determine which is which.

Tim J: The law is nevertheless not on the side of people who damage the state (whether directly or indirectly) and is not supposed to be. That’s what I was trying to get at. The victim is not the prosecutor, no, but the state prosecutes the crime because it believes that the harm caused to the victim was not in the interest of the state.

The whole point of civil law is to determine which is which.

Right, which means it shouldn’t prejudge before the case starts which is which, whereas in criminal law the trial begins on the basis that harm was caused to the state and the trial is to determine whether the defendant was responsible for that harm.

14. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

@11

No it isn’t. The role of the victim in criminal law is an incidental and provative one only. The entire point of the criminal law is that it is the state that is damaged, and the state that prosecutes. Hence why cases are referred to as R v Jones, and not Victim v Jones.

It is, in fact, the civil law that is supposed to be on the side of the victim, and against those who breach the law. The whole point of civil law is to determine which is which.

This.

As others have said before me the criminal law isn’t supposed to be on the side of the victim. In point of fact, in the truest legal and forensic sense, the victim serves only as another piece of evidence and another crime scene to be analysed.

The law is as far on the side of the victims as it can be without descending into a farce (allowing video link evidence and even detaining the alleged offender BEFORE there is any proof of their having commited any crime whatsoever).

The feminist in me does say ‘that’s not enough’ but as a lawyer I honestly think that’s as far as the law can go and still be worth upholding.

(also the cutting of funding from a rape crisis centre by a local council, which is an appalling action IMO, is hardly the fault of central government regardless of what party is sitting in power… perhaps another (better?) question to ask would be “why, in 13 years of Labour government did they not back and finance the founding of more rape crisis centres?”)

whereas in criminal law the trial begins on the basis that harm was caused to the state and the trial is to determine whether the defendant was responsible for that harm.

Again, not really. The first thing that the prosecutor has to prove is the actus reus – literally the thing that was done. There are an awful lot of trials where it is found that no crime was committed. A criminal trial has to prove two things – that a crime was committed, and that the defendant was guilty of it.

The criminal law really shouldn’t be on anybody’s side but its own – there’s a reason justice is blindfolded.

17. Matt Munro

@ 6 “The correlation is that if a woman has somewhere to go after a horrendous ordeal where she is respected and comforted and supported then she might feel more in a position to make a claim to the police. If the woman has no such place, and has to go on living in fear without support, then they might be more likely to leave the crime unreported.”

Yes I understand the principle but that’s not a correlation – does it happen in *practice* i.e are actual conviction rates higher in areas that have crisis centres

18. Matt Munro

@ 10. “No it’s not. It’s actually completely irrelevant to the topic at hand. You need a better hobby.”

And you need to get a life – Since when did you decide “the topic at hand” ?

The OP is connecting the closure with pay rises at croydon council and the “predominately tory coalition government”.

@ 5 “you keep using that word, “impartial”. I do not think it means what you think it means”.

Enlighten me – what do I think it means ? And what does it actually mean ?

Are you two related by the way or just both welsh

19. Matt Munro

@ 11 “Criminal law is supposed to be on the side of the victims of crime and against those who perpetrate it.”

No it isn’t. Until someone has been convicted there hasn’t by definition been a crime, and hence there isn’t a victim. The criminal law process leading to a conviction cannot therefore be on the side of the victim.

Have nu labour really damaged our legal system so badly that people no longer understand it’s basic principles ?

20. Col. Richard Hindrance (Mrs), VC, DSO and Bar, Buffet, Dancing 'til Late

“Until someone has been convicted there hasn’t by definition been a crime…”

So, all those women murdered by Jack the Ripper were not the victims of a crime?

You’re silly.

And a cockend.

21. Col. Richard Hindrance (Mrs), VC, DSO and Bar, Buffet, Dancing 'til Late

And when someone’s called “the accused”, what are they accused of?

And when police keep sheaves of files labelled “unsolved crimes”, what are they?

[hint: begins with ‘c’, rhymes with ‘limes’.]

“Have nu labour really damaged our legal system so badly that people no longer understand it’s basic principles ?”

Well, one person certainly doesn’t.

Cockend.

Tim J/16: The criminal law really shouldn’t be on anybody’s side but its own – there’s a reason justice is blindfolded.

The implementation of criminal law shouldn’t be on anyone’s side, but the law itself should be firmly on the side of minimising the harm caused to the state and people.

Murder is widely considered wrong. We have laws against it. The criminal law therefore takes the side of murder victims [1] against murderers. Any particular murder trial, of course, should be carried out fairly to ensure as far as is reasonably possible that people are not jailed for crimes they didn’t commit while the real perpetrator remains free, and to that end the court should not take sides between the state and the defendant.

[1] Yes, I know, technically “the state’s interests in not having people become murder victims within its borders” against murderers, but the end result is much the same.

Matt/19: Until someone has been convicted there hasn’t by definition been a crime, and hence there isn’t a victim.

Under that logic, the conviction rate for all crimes is 100% and always has been, and the recent Cumbria shootings were not a criminal act. There are a set of legal definitions under which what you’re saying is true, but they are not the only definitions which have validity, and in some contexts other definitions make more sense.

(The government’s compensation fund for victims of crime, for instance, does not require that a named individual be convicted in court of that crime)

23. Matt Munro

@21 They are accused of a crime, if they are found not guilty then there cannot have been a crime. As someone said upthread one of the purposes of a trial is to determine that a crime has been committed.
We musn’t fall into the trap of assuming that because an accusation has been made it is true.

Surely it’s fairly obvious that *some* trials are to establish whether or not a crime occurred, and others are to establish who committed a crime that everyone accepts occurred? So:

1) Body found, bloke arrested for murder, he says “it wasn’t me” – both sides accept there was a crime, the court determines whether or not the defendant did it.

2) Bloke allegedly tells people he murdered someone and dissolved their body in acid, bloke arrested for murder, he says “no, he ran away to Brazil” – one side claims there was a crime *and* that the defendant did it, the court determines whether or not both propositions are true.

Most serious crimes fall into the first category, but not all. Rape is probably more likely than other serious crimes to fall into the second category.

25. Matt Munro

@22 “Murder is widely considered wrong. We have laws against it. The criminal law therefore takes the side of murder victims [1] against murderers”

No it doesn’t. It prosecutes people who break the law, in that case the law against murder. As others have said the state is the prosecutor and has to prove the law has been broken, the victim is essentially evidence of the breaking of that law and is therefore treated neutrally. It makes no sense to say the law is on the side of the victim, it is in fact easier to argue that it is on the side of the defendant – the burden of proof is lies with the prosecution, the defendant, in principle, does not have to prove anything, the defence gets the closing adress to the jury, etc.

Body found, bloke arrested for murder, he says “it wasn’t me” – both sides accept there was a crime, the court determines whether or not the defendant did it.

Defendants won’t accept any such thing – the onus is on the prosecution to prove that a crime has been committed. It’s likely, of course, that this proof will be in the form of an inquest verdict, but it’s still open for the defendant to challenge and disprove this (like in about a third of detective/Rumpole novels).

The implementation of criminal law shouldn’t be on anyone’s side, but the law itself should be firmly on the side of minimising the harm caused to the state and people.

Absolutely, and the best way of doing this is to avoid loading the scales in either direction. False convictions are as damaging to the state as wrongful acquittals – probably more so in fact.

The criminal law therefore takes the side of murder victims against murderers.

The criminal law demands that something be proved beyond all reasonable doubt before a verdict can be made. The defence speaks last in trials. If there is any side-taking then it is on the side of the defendant. Which is just as it should be.

@19

Until someone has been convicted there hasn’t by definition been a crime, and hence there isn’t a victim.

I never had you down as a postmodern deconstructionist, Munro… But as the Colonel’s wife points out (in rather blunt language) – were there no victims of Jack the Ripper? No-one was found guilty of the murders after all. So does that mean a crime didn’t take place?

It’s sounding a bit Buddhist koan-esque to me actually… “if a crime is committed and there is no-one found to have committed it, was it still a crime? *cue dramatic ummming*”

Whether Rape Crisis Centres increase calls to the Police or convictions is to miss their point entirely. The argument for them is not about conviction, it’s about helping victims of a specific type of crime that violates the body and the mind. The argument against Rape Crisis helping to secure convictions/charges is not an argument against the Centres. There should be more of them and they should be at least partially, if not fully funded by the government. That is clearly not going to happen since we have a government that firmly favours privatisation of the NHS never mind focused methods of victim support.

29. Matt Munro

@ 28 But that’s the whole point. If you are making a case for government funding then you have to show that it will have a desirable outcome otherwise why should the taxpayer fund it.

Tory trolls do have a chip on their shoulder about rapists. They are not usually that concerned with suspects rights. But when it comes to rape, tory trolls go into complete reversals of their normal beliefs.

Quite odd.

But tory trolls do seem to have some affection for rapists. Maybe they have something to hide. Or more probably, they hate woman.

31. Flowerpower

Almost nothing in this post is true.

1. The leader of Croydon council is NOT taking a rise in his allowances this year. His entitlement is being increased ‘on paper’ but he’s not actually taking the money.

2. There aren’t only 2 rape crisis centres in London. How about Solace and the NIA Project?

3. There haven’t been any ‘cuts’ yet. The level of spending next year will be pretty well as much or higher than it was last year in real terms.

32. Flowerpower

Oh….. and here’s what Tory Boris Johnson has done:

Islington and Westminster councils have taken the lead to deliver new Rape Crisis services in north London using £370,000 of funding from the Mayor. With the full support of four other north London councils they plan to run Rape Crisis services in each borough … This means that women in north London will not have to travel across boroughs but can access services locally.

A similar plan is underway in east London where Redbridge is leading work to deliver a new Rape Crisis Centre for the area with £370,000 of funding from the Mayor.

The new Rape Crisis Centre for west London, run by the Women and Girl’s Network, will start operating on April 1. With £375,000 funding from the Mayor along with resources and additional funding from Ealing Council, the centre hopes to run satellite services across West London.

Since receiving £260,000 from the Mayor last year the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (RASASC) in Croydon has doubled the capacity of its helpline and increased by 30 per cent the level of face to face counselling it can now provide to victims of rape and sexual abuse.

http://www.london.gov.uk/media/press_releases_mayoral/mayor-quadruple-rape-crisis-services-london

33. Chaise Guevara

“These statistics are enough to be getting on with – as a feminist and, more importantly, as a woman, it is a very difficult idea to digest that the law has not, does not and, it seems, will not for the foreseeable future, legislate properly so that the law is on the side of the victim. ”

Um, the law is on the side of the alleged criminal in all crimes, not just rape. That’s why I can’t get you put in jail just by accusing you of something when I know you haven’t got an alibi.

Trials fail to convict because of a lack of evidence or because the accused is shown to be innocent. To ‘legislate properly’, you’d have to either knowingly put innocents in jail or lock up people without proving their guilt. No thanks.

None of this, though, means we should be withdrawing money from victim support centres.

34. Chaise Guevara

“If you are making a case for government funding then you have to show that it will have a desirable outcome otherwise why should the taxpayer fund it.”

Matt, I’m pretty sure helping the victims of rape qualifies as “a desirable outcome”.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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