A few blogs ago, I urged caution over judging the Ched Evans case in which everyone liked to play jury. I said that second guessing this jury decision was nonsensical and pointed out that governments of all shades launch attacks on the jury system from time to time.
Although it may have its faults, trial by jury remains a protection against totalitarian governments who know that twelve ordinary members of the public are a safeguard against over-bearing State power.
Last week the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, launched her very own attack on the jury system when it comes to the offence of rape.
The DPP is an apolitical institution that must prosecute criminal offences. It is a well-known principle that prosecutors do not pursue a successful prosecution ‘at all costs’, but to administer justice fairly.
It seems Ms Saunders is never off the airwaves now, and has a particular obsession with the offence of rape. When she gives interviews either to the Today Programme or, as is frequently the case, Woman’s Hour she always refers to women who complain of rape, as ‘victims’ and not, as most lawyers will say, ‘complainants.’
She should know – and I am sure she does know – that before conviction such women should be referred to as complainants and not victims, as to do so assumes the defendant is guilty before he has even had a trial. This may be a small point, lost on the majority of listeners, but language counts. And the repeated use of the term victim before conviction tells me that Ms Saunders believes every charge of rape must result in a conviction.
No doubt this is because of the immense pressure the feminist lobby has brought to bear on her office. It is no coincidence that the crime of rape is (as far as I believe) the only offence that cannot be committed by a woman. Only a man can commit it either against a woman or a man – although in the vast majority of cases it is a man committing it against a woman.
In an attempt to increase the conviction rate for the offence, Ms Saunders said the following: “Consent to sexual activity is not a grey area – in law it is clearly defined and must be given fully and freely.” It is true that consent is defined in the Sexual Offences Act 2003, but it is astonishing that she would say it is ‘not a grey area.’ Entire academic careers depend on the fact the legally, consent is a grey area and undergraduate law students spend hours at a time researching what exactly is consent and what is not.
Factually, consent is very murky and a jury will take considerable time determining if consent was in fact present. Is Ms Saunders really saying a jury can determine this question after a week’s trial in five minutes? It is a nonsense.
The most dangerous thing Ms Saunders said, however, is the following: ‘For too long society has blamed rape victims for confusing the issue of consent – by drinking or dressing provocatively for example. But it is not they who are confused, it is society itself and we must challenge that”
What Ms Saunders is really saying is that for too long members of the jury have blamed rape victims for confusing the issue of consent. As members of a jury are drawn from society she cannot mean anything else. This is an astonishing attack on the jury system by the DPP. It is no less than browbeating future members of a jury into leaning on the side of convicting a defendant in a case where drink is taken – despite what the evidence might say. I do not know of any similar intervention ever made by a Director of Public Prosecutions.