Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cautions for Rape?

This week's headlines have waxed wroth over the news that in recent years some 40 rape cases per annum have led to a caution rather than a court appearance. The tabloids have drunk deep at this spring, suiting as it does their parallel agendas of sexual titillation and of calling down the wrath of God on sex offenders. Kiddie fiddlers are demonised two pages away from Charlene (16 of course) getting her tits out for the lads.

I have absolutely no knowledge of any of these cases, but two things occur to me, the first far more important than the second.

The first is that we are talking about forty cases in a year - a number that is statistically insignificant.

The second is gleaned from the little detail that has been released, reinforced by the experience that I have accumulated over time:-

Rape is an infinitely variable crime - the stereotypical stranger leaping out of the bushes is far less usual than the murky waters of so-called date rape and of rape within families and communities. Nearly all of it goes unreported (which is not to belittle the impact on victims) and when a rape is reported, however unusual the circumstances, CPS and police guidelines mean that there will usually be a charge.

So when for example a sibling-on-sibling rape from 50 years earlier is alleged, for whatever reason, and the perpetrator admits it, is a caution so inappropriate? I won't go on with examples, because we can all imagine others, but let's keep a sense of proportion here - what does society have to gain from a full-on prosecution?

Sometimes the law has to stand back and let go. These cases are probably in that category.

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