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Archive for the ‘Rape, sexual assault & harassment’ Category

Nikki Godden-Rasul

Newcastle University Law School

Last month, an apparently rare Scottish civil case in which ‘Ms M’ was awarded damages for rape after an unsuccessful criminal prosecution against Stephen Coxen made the news. The often negative and distressful experience of the criminal justice process for sexual violence survivors is well documented, even in cases where the victim-as-witness is treated fairly and with respect by criminal justice personnel, and the case proceeds as it should.

Ms M’s experience was, unfortunately, not this best case scenario. She said that the criminal justice system is a ‘disgrace’: ‘my case wasn’t investigated as well as it could have been’ and ‘how the Crown represented my case, I think the Crown failed in that’. Despite this, she was not ready to give up on using the law to hold Stephen Coxen to account. Although a jury in the criminal case returned a verdict of ‘not proven’, in the Court of Session, Sherriff R B Weir QC found that Coxen had penetrated Ms M’s vagina and mouth with his penis without her consent, and he had no reasonable belief in consent.

At the time of the sexual assaults they were both undergraduate students who has been to a house warming party and out clubbing. Ms M was so intoxicated that she did not have the capacity to give meaningful consent. Sherriff Weir concluded that it ‘has been established on the balance of probabilities that the defender ignored what would have been obvious signs of the pursuer’s intoxication, took advantage of her in that state, and continued to do so even when she began to evince distress and attempted to resist him’. Ms M was granted £80,000, to be paid by Coxen (AR v Stephen Daniel Coxen [2018] SC EDIN 53). Ms M said she hopes that the civil case shines a light on the failures of the criminal justice system in rape and sexual assault cases, a point emphasised by the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre who represented her.

The cries from certain corners that a successful civil claim after an unsuccessful criminal prosecution for rape is ‘double jeopardy!’ and/or ‘a threat to justice!’ were predictably loud and predictably baseless. The Scottish Women’s Rights Centre with JustRight Scotland, Rape Crisis Scotland, and a number of solicitors in Scottish Legal News have responded to highlight the factual inaccuracies and gross misrepresentations. (more…)

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fullsizeoutput_639Professor Alex Sharpe, Keele University

This article considers the recent case of Karen White and offers a measured response, in place of the heated reactions, the case has so far generated in the media and elsewhere. The key facts about the case are that Karen White, a transgender woman, was placed in HMP New Hall, a female prison in West Yorkshire, while on remand for rape and despite a history of sexual offending, and that while on remand, she assaulted four female inmates. The case has been manna from heaven for the right wing media and those who, with no sense of irony, describe themselves as gender critical feminists, and who oppose trans rights. The Times’ Janice Turner is one journalist who is (rightly) angry about the case, which she likens to ‘locking a fox in a henhouse.’[1]

 

She calls for prison policy change so as to preclude “male-born (sic) criminal(s) who [have] committed a violent or sexual crime against women” from being allocated to the female estate. While some readers may sympathise with this suggestion, we need to recognise what it and Turner’s fox metaphor masks. First, let us begin with some statistics. Turner refers to a ‘BBC reality check’ that found that there are currently 125 trans prisoners in English and Welsh prisons, 60 of whom have sex offence convictions (48%) (while she does not say so explicitly, these figures appear to be 2017 figures provided by the Ministry of Justice after the anti-trans group, Fair Play for Women, put in an FOI request).[2] Before proceeding further, let us consider this 48% figure. While it suggests nearly half of all trans prisoners are sex offenders, it is actually very misleading. This is because the statistic: (i) only counts trans prisoners who have informed prison officers of their trans status, (ii) does not count trans prisoners with a GRC, and (iii) does not take account of trans prisoners on shorter sentences, because they were not included in the survey. Accordingly, the actual percentage of trans prisoners who are sex offenders is likely to be considerable lower than 48%. This is perhaps especially so given exclusion of prisoners on shorter sentences, as they are, by definition, less likely to be sex offenders. (more…)

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Image result for diane crockerProfessor Diane Crocker (Department of Sociology and Criminology, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)

A few years back, my friend and I attended a panel discussing a Facebook group, the “Gentlemen’s Club,” that several male dentist students had set up.[1] The postings included sexist and misogynist comments about female classmates and the panel set out to address how to respond and promote a more respectful campus culture. I met my friend 25 year ago, while we were both undergraduates. At the time, she worked in women’s organizations and provided advocacy for women experiencing violence. But she had been away from that world for many years. At the end of the panel, my friend turned to me and announced her surprise that nothing had really changed in 25 years.

Her point was twofold. The attitudes revealed in the “Gentleman’s Club” echoed those on campuses during our undergraduate years. That hadn’t really changed. But her point spoke to another way in which nothing has changed. She felt disappointed that, in 25 years, we had not developed much new thinking about the problems. It struck her that we still doing the same kind of work to respond to the same old problems.

The “Gentlemen’s Club” presents only one example of current problems on Canadian campuses.

In recent years, Canadians have been confronted by seemingly endless stories about sexual harassment and violence on campuses across the country. (more…)

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Ever wondered why more women don’t report upskirting to the police? Here’s one possible reason – some police simply do not take this form of harassment seriously. Indeed, some seem to think it’s funny.

Aoife O’Donoghue and Clare McGlynn

 

A couple of days ago, UK Cop Humour re-posted a piece from the Bexley Gazette containing images of upskirting. The photo is of two women in the process of being arrested by two police officers – taken presumably by a member of the public – and shows them in a humiliating and degrading position. Held down by police over the bonnet of a police car, with their skirts raised and underwear showing, they cannot adjust their clothing and must suffer the glare of the public on their bodies. The decision of UK Cop Humour to re-post this image is seriously troubling.

(more…)

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Kyle L Murray & Tara Beattie are both PhD candidates at Durham Law School.

The Case

Gayle Newland’s case is likely not news to many – her retrial and conviction for sexual assault of a female friend has attracted wide-ranging media coverage. This is perhaps no surprise, given the numerous case-elements which challenge typical expectations of the nature of sexual assault, and the profile of an offender. As the Telegraph reports, “a woman who preys on another woman confounds expectations” – the public often picturing sex offenders “as seedy men who lie in wait for strangers.” But so too does the nature and extent of the deception surrounding the assault. The victim believed that she was in a romantic, sexual relationship with a man named ‘Kye’ – a false persona created by Newland. Although the two met, ‘Kye’ was never seen in person, with the victim being requested to wear a mask during their meetings, on account of supposed embarrassment at a disfigurement. When together, Newland carried out sexual acts using a prosthetic penis, and forbade the victim from touching her.

The case raises ethical and legal considerations surrounding deception, identity and consent. For some, Newland’s conviction is a worrying reflection of the state of gender and consent in criminal law, and something which could have repercussions for the LGBTQ community. For others, those voices do not fully acknowledge the damage caused by building a relationship upon lies.

For two law researchers, with respective backgrounds in moral scepticism and sexual privacy, this was the topic of an afternoon conversation which proved troubling to both parties. Our full commentary is provided in in dialogical form here. A summary of the issues discussed is provided below.

Trans rights, deceit, and bodily autonomy (more…)

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Professor Alex Sharpe, Keele University10689909_1016854768344392_8793741729286128967_n

Today, at Manchester Crown Court, Gayle Newland was, after a second trial, convicted of three counts of the sexual offence of assault by penetration,[1] on the basis of ‘gender identity fraud.’[2] After serving eleven months of an eight year sentence, the Court of Appeal set aside her original conviction in 2015[3] because they found it to be ‘unsafe’ due to the summing up of trial judge, Roger Dutton.[4] In my view, prosecutions of this kind should not be commenced. My reasons for taking this stance include, but are not exhausted by, opposition to criminal law overreach (criminalisation of non-coercive, desire-led intimacy constitutes a step too far), and concern over legal inconsistency (contrast prosecution of gender non-conforming people for sexual fraud with the fact that deceptions, for example, as to wealth, social status, drug use, criminal convictions, religious belief and/or ethnic status produce no legal consequences), and discrimination (‘gender history’ is not only singled out for special legal attention, but it is the gender histories of LGBTQ kids, rather than people at large (for we all have gender histories), that appears to exhaust state interest in historical facts about gender). (more…)

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Kate Gleeson

Dr. Kate Gleeson, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is in its closing stages, preparing its final report due at the end of this year. The Royal Commission was established in 2013 in response to allegations of cover-ups of child sexual abuse in religious and secular institutions.

The Commissioners have since embarked on an extensive project of truth recovery and restorative justice, investigating the organisational practices of institutions ranging from dance schools, swim schools and yoga ashrams, to schools, Churches and orphanages of different denominations, although most allegations concern the Catholic Church.

Throughout the past four years the Royal Commission has held public hearings into more than 40 investigatory case studies, and conducted over 6700 private hearings for survivors to tell their stories unchallenged. Another 2000 private sessions are scheduled before the end of the year. Information gathered in hearings is believed to have led to at least 120 prosecutions of historical child sex offences across the country. (more…)

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