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Posts Tagged ‘criminal justice system’

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Snapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks.

The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill (NI)

Sarah Thin, Durham University

On the 20th of October, the Northern Irish Assembly passed the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, a controversial new law which purportedly seeks to combat human trafficking and sexual exploitation by, inter alia, criminalising the act of paying for sexual services.  It is likely to become law by mid-2015.  By targeting the buyer as opposed to the seller (a novel approach within the UK), the proposals aim to recreate the supposed success of the ‘Swedish model’, the idea behind which is to reduce demand within the sex trade thereby reducing levels of sex trafficking.

There has been heavy criticism of the proposals: a survey of sex workers has found that 98% of them oppose the proposals and 61% believe the new law would make them less safe.  Many argue that the Swedish model ‘strips women of their agency and autonomy’ by criminalising the consensual buying and selling of sex, has increased the stigmatisation of sex workers, and its success appears to have been greatly exaggerated.  While no-one would deny that human trafficking is a major problem in today’s society, claims that the majority of sex workers in Northern Ireland are victims of trafficking have been shown to be unfounded, and many believe the plans will simply force the sex trade further underground, making it even more difficult to combat the issue and provide support to victims.  These proposals, while presumably well-meaning, conflate the two separate issues of trafficking and consensual sex work and are likely to be at best ineffective, most likely very harmful.  We must hope that the new campaign for a similar law in England meets with a more considered approach. 

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IB imageSnapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks

Abusive Treatment of Indigenous Women in Canada

Gita Keshava, Durham University

On January 30, 2014 representatives from Human Rights Watch testified before the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women in the Canadian House of Commons. They urged the government to set up an independent national inquiry to investigate the current violence experienced by indigenous women and girls, in order to create a system that will ensure greater accountability with regards to police misconduct, and ultimately hold them responsible for their actions or lack thereof. In February 2013, Human Rights Watch published a report specifically investigating the protection of indigenous women and girls in northern British Columbia (BC). It highlighted the fact that police continue to use excessive force, and physical and sexual assault against indigenous women and girls. In order to target these issues, Canada needs to ensure that there is a police complaint mechanism, that oversight procedures are in force, and that there is a requirement for independent civilian investigations into reported incidents of police misconduct. In addition, the government needs to establish a commission to investigate the murders and disappearances of indigenous women and the link that these events have with police mistreatment, especially in relation to the Highway 16, now commonly known as northern BC’s “Highway of Tears.” These concerns, although specifically relevant to Indigenous women and girls, remain a serious issue for all women in British Columbia and in Canada more generally.

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Nikki Godden (Newcastle Law School, Inherently Human editor) 

Reflections from the 6th North East Conference on Sexual Violence

The 6th North East Conference on Sexual Violence took place on Monday 19th November. It is an annual conference in recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which is on the 25th November. Attended by scholars, feminist activists, and those who work with organisations or institutions that address sexual violence, it promises lively, informative and interesting discussions surrounding sexual violence which it did not fail to deliver. This year, the conference centred on Liz Kelly’s concept of the ‘continuum of violence’, 25 years after the first edition of her book Surviving Sexual Violence was published. The presentations and main discussions of the day will not be outlined in this post as this information is available here; rather, I want to pick up and follow up on a couple of points and questions that were raised. How much reliance should feminists place on the criminal justice system to respond to sexual violence? Or how much of feminists’ work and effort should go towards improving the criminal justice system? (more…)

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Vincent McAviney is a Political Producer at Sky News. He was previously a member of Gender and Law at Durham (GLAD) based in the Law School at Durham University where he completed a LLB and MJur on the reform of partial defences in 2011. The following post was originally posted on the Huffington Post.

In early November, Gordon Brown’s former special advisor wrote a terrific advice blog for David Cameron. In it he recommended against doing exactly what the prime minister has gone out and done today with his criminal justice announcement.

If this were the Great British Bake Off Mary Barry would be making that disapproving face at this half-baked policy.

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Nikki Godden

The worldwide media has seen before high profile criminal cases involving wealthy public figures followed by civil suits brought by the complainants. OJ Simpson, former American footballer, was acquitted of murder in a criminal case but, a few years later, was liable to pay extensive damages to the families of his victims in a successful wrongful death claim. After rape charges brought against basketball star Kobe Bryant were dropped by prosecutors, the complainant brought a civil suit and the case was settled out of court. Similar cases have been reported in the UK. It was, therefore, not a great surprise when Nafissatou Diallo initiated a civil claim for unspecified damages against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the International Monetary Fund, who she alleges sexually assaulted her in his suite at her employer’s Manhattan hotel (see, eg, Telegraph, Guardian, Financial Times, Time (US)). What is surprising is the timing of her case: she has filed the civil suit while a criminal investigation is still underway. Prosecutors are deciding whether or not to proceed with the case, following doubts as to Ms Diallo’s credibility: revelations relating to her financial status, associations with alleged criminals, an asylum application and previous rape complaint have been reported in the media.  

It is clear why she is bringing the claim. (more…)

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Jennifer Hey

(Blog Editor)

It has been over 10 years since the implementation of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 and the introduction of a blanket ban on sexual history evidence with four gateway exceptions under S.41. The Act was designed to limit the amount of sexual history evidence which was brought into the court room. This blog will question whether or not there has been any effect on the attrition or conviction rate for rape.  (more…)

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Nikki Godden

(Blog editor)

[Since this post has been written, the woman has been freed. Read about it here. In spite of this relief, many of the points for concern expressed below still stand.]

A woman has been given an eight-month prison sentence after falsely retracting a complaint that she had been raped by her husband. As an apparently first of its kind, and with appalling facts, the press have been quick to report it (with articles from the BBC, Guardian and Telegraph; these sources have been relied upon in writing this post). Unsurprisingly, the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAWC) and the charity Rape Crisis have responded quickly, expressing their ‘outrage’ at the case, and there is already an abundance of comments in the blogosphere. Nevertheless, this sad and shocking story and the concerns that this case throws up are worthy of repetition here.  (more…)

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