Bland and dreary. – Ivor 3sep02
This is a first draft of an article for Male View.
The paragraphs with square brackets are ones that I will tell David he can delete if he needs to get it to fit with what space he has left.
What I would like you to do is
1/. check spelling and grammar.
2/. reshape words and sentences that are clumsy.
The Rape Sentencing Panel offers advice to the Court of Appeal regarding the appropriate length of sentences. The latest proposals from the Panel, which completed and published its report in May 2002, is that the minimum sentence for rape should be set at 5 years.
It is clear from the Consultation document, issued in 2001, that the panel felt moderately inclined that the minimum tariff in rape cases should, in future, be set at 8 years. The very first question, in their 2001 paper, asked whether "8 years was appropriate". Their May 2002 report, therefore, represents a movement contrary to expectations and against the prevailing calls (presumably) from women’s groups.
[Contrast this with Buggery (male rape) which used to carry a MAXiminm sentence of 10 years.]
Not only is it contrary but one that is downward in terms of historic trends.
So are we witnessing a small success ? Has the bandwagon been slowed - or even stopped ?
In 1980 the average (most numerous) sentence, at 37%, was 2 – 3 years. This represented a single spike in graph form. By 1996 the average when depicted on a graph had become a lopsided plateau of 28 % and 23% covering the sentence range 5 – 7 years and 7 – 10 years (HOS 196, Fig 6.1, p 38). The prospect was that the trend would continue and that 8, 10 or even 12 years would become the norm for a rape offence was a real possibility.
Rape sentencing guidelines used to day were first set out in the case of "Billam" (1986).
At para 30 the reported states "A minority of respondents to the Panel's consultation paper thought that the 5 year starting point should be higher (6 or 7 years), and some would prefer the 8 year starting point to be increased to 9 or 10 years. Some of those who took the contrary view suggested that higher starting points would carry the risk of an increased acquittal rate, because juries would be more reluctant to convict." This was one of ManKind’s observations and one shared by judges.
When the Rape Sentencing Panel invited ManKind to contribute to its deliberations we undertook a very detailed and exhaustive review. We looked at practices in Europe (both east and west) and in North America. The results were disquieting. We found the English regime unenlightened and comparatively barbaric. [In Germany and France the bulk of offenders (approx. 95% and 52% respectively) are sentenced to less than 60 months (5 years).]
[In Italy the majority of rapists serve less than 2 years. In Sweden 35%. serve less than 2 years. In England only 4% are sentenced to less than two years. This is imbalance is what ManKind sort to address.]
We knew that the University of Sussex had been asked to undertake research based on a self-selecting group of female rape victims and a "focus group". To task untutored members of the general public to answer questions about the intricacies of rape. knowing it would deeply influence the Sentencing Panel. was in our view reckless. [The gut reaction ("hang ‘em high") that they subsequently reported was entirely predictable. ]
We wrote in our submission (‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ £14.99), "…. No where are there so many life sentences than in Britain. Countries normally associated with harsh penal regimes, e.g. Russia and Portugal, do not have as many ‘lifers’ as England or Scotland. Even France, which has 3 times the number of rapists incarcerated, has only 4 men serving ‘life’." [We offered the Panel an alternative progressive penal regime which they ignored.]
We have to view the Panel’s recommendations as a success because it is a reprieve from what might have been. The previous minimum sentence guidelines (Billam) meant that the average sentence for a rape offender (in 2000) had been talked up to 7 years 4 months. For a ‘not guilty’ plea the average was 7 years 6 months on and 6 years 10 months on a guilty plea.
Despite this, many judges believe that many rape cases did not deserve 5 years as minimum or 7 years where there are "aggrevating factors", eg threat of violence. Some judges viewed the Billam guidelines as ‘unhelpful’ and wished they could ignore them (HOS 196, p 39).
[After completing appropriate LCD training some judges are awarded a "sex ticket" which enables them to try sex cases. ]
In Britain the majority of sentences (57%) fell within the range 5 - 10 years, but 25% of offenders received sentences of under 5 years, and 17% were sentenced to more than 10 years, including 10% who were sentenced to life imprisonment (Para 7 ).
But perhaps the greatest breakthrough was in the shift of mind set. The panel, commenting on the victim's behaviour said, a para 43, "The relevance of the victim's behaviour to the seriousness of an offence of rape is a difficult and sensitive issue. The Court of Appeal said in Billam: 'The fact that the victim may be considered to have exposed herself to danger by acting imprudently (as for instance by accepting a lift in a car from a stranger) is not a mitigating factor . . . . But if the victim has behaved in a manner which was calculated to lead the defendant to believe that she would consent to sexual intercourse, then there should be some mitigation of the sentence. In this passage the Court of Appeal makes it clear that just because a victim may have been naive, unwise or imprudent, this cannot in itself affect the seriousness of the rape." [Paras 22 to 26 also touched on the thorny problem of prior sexual knowledge (Re Berry) and that "…. the offender may have been subject to an unusual degree of provocation or stress …. "]
[Another reason, why we believed ‘Billam’ was redundant was that it denied female equality and responsibility. It held that women are so infantile that they cannot make up their own minds sensibly and assess the risks of, for example, accepting a lift from a stranger. No where were women held accountable for their actions and decisions. This endorses the notion that women are defenceless and can not commit DV.]
[The sentencing Panel adopted another of our proposals in agreeing that ‘vulnerability’ be linked to age range.]
[We believe the ‘industry’ surrounding the whole issue of rape needs re-assesing. Are we getting ‘results’ and value for money ? ]
[. Using Feltham jail, in England, as the standard, the average cost of jailing a rapist in England is £52,000 per annum. (£1,000 per prisoner per week, HMP ‘Unlock’ Conference, Nov 2001). The cost over the average sentence of 7 years and 1 month is, therefore, £369,000 (1,000 p/w x 85 months). ]
[The number of rapists (around 515 in 1999) therefore costs the Exchequer around £190m p.a.
[How would women’s groups, if given the same amount, better spend it ? Would compensation packages be far more generous than at present ?
Of the 515 sentenced 17% were juveniles aged between 10 and 17. The average sentence for them was 3 years 9 months. In all, 503 persons received a custodial sentence for rape in 1999.]
Rape Sentencing Panel - Tel: 0207-271-8336
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
1200 words approx – 773 with italics para deleted