« Home | A police investigation, but how far will it go? » | Scum-watch: Disgraceful journalism shocker. » | Scum-watch: Demanding the immediate arrest of Anje... » | An improvement, but more still to be done. » | Rights and responsibilities in a policy vacuum. » | The world mourns. » | Weekend links. » | It's not enough. » | A depressing pyrrhic victory. » | How many more might there be? » 

Friday, March 27, 2009 

An interesting set of priorities.

It's interesting and perhaps informative to note that on the day that there was another case which showed the deficiencies and incompetence which often dogs police investigations into accusations of rape, both the Daily Mail and Express decided that a man cleared of rape after 45 minutes of deliberations was far more worthy of going on the front page than the conviction of Kirk Reid, who raped or indecently assaulted as many as 71 women before finally being caught.

The acquittal of Peter Bacon predictably touches all the issues which the Mail and Express love to highlight. His accuser admitted that she was drunk and couldn't remember what happened. She claimed that because she couldn't remember what happened, the sexual intercourse the pair apparently had must have been non-consensual, in line with an appeal court judgement from 2007 which adjudged that a woman who is drunk may well be unable to give her consent, but the decision is still ultimately left up to the jury to decide whether the man had a "reasonable belief" that consent had been given. For a paper that continues to take a highly moralistic line when it comes to sex, Bacon gets off remarkably scot free from criticism, especially considering his comment that he was aiming to try to get a one-night stand legitimately", with predictably the woman copping it instead. She was a self-confessed "recreational binge drinker", had not a boyfriend for a number of years, "was close to her mother", had been suffering from depression, "was known for flamboyant outfits in court" during her work as a lawyer, and had had another one night stand with a different man when Bacon and the woman had previously crossed paths. Bacon, instead, is "a very kind and caring individual, and would never speak badly of anyone", was holding down two part-time jobs, and also studying sociology at Canterbury university.

All of this is with a contrast with the Kirk Reid case, which you might have thought was more newsworthy. The second case within a month concerning police incompetence and repeated attacks on women over a number of years, the conviction of John Worboys being the other example. Reid had first entered the police's inquiries in 2004, and came into contact with the police 12 times before a detective inspector who had just been handed the case joined the dots in a matter of days. Both Worboys and Reid targeted women returning from nights out, often the worse the wear from drink, which Worboys then compounded by offering the women who entered his cab a drink, claiming that he had a major betting or casino win. The drinks were spiked; the women often woke up unable to remember what happened, but knowing that they had been sexually assaulted.

The obvious point to make is that despite improvements over the years, women are still all too often completely disbelieved or not taken seriously when making rape allegations, especially when drink has been involved. This is further not helped by surveys which routinely return results that up to a third believe women are partially responsible if they flirt with someone who subsequently rapes them, with around the same number also thinking the victim should accept some of the blame if she was drunk. As potentially irresponsible as getting drunk on your own is, with no one to take care of you while you get home, all the blame has to lie with the person who takes advantage of it - not the victim.

As much as Peter Bacon has undoubtedly suffered since he was accused, the end result shows that the system has worked. There is an argument to be made for the accused in rape trials to be given the same protection as the victim until conviction, but that then raises implications for those accused of other crimes. Why should those charged with murder or child molestation/possession of child pornography for example not also claim they should be protected until proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt? Bacon couldn't really have asked for a better confirmation of his innocence than for him to be splashed across the front page of the second biggest selling newspaper in the country, which will hopefully be some kind of recompense, however slight. A far bigger travesty would be if the wide publication of his case was to further damage the belief in those who have been assaulted and who have never faced a greater challenge in bringing their attackers to justice.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Share |

I wrote my Law dissertation on this last year. I don't believe the names or likenesses of the accused should be released to the media before the trial is concluded.
Even in a local paper, if someone is accused of something, they have to struggle to regain their reputation.
Imagine if Robert Murat were to face trial in this country? There is more than a sneaking suspicion a jury might have already condemned based on the months of coverage he was subjected to in national newspapers here.
There are exceptions for this general principle, for example, when the police are trying to search for a suspect, and release the modern equivalent of a wanted poster, but I believe that the personalities can and should remain detached from the reporting of proceedings.
I found this week's news (from watching the Wright Stuff, it must be disclaimed) was appalling.

Post a Comment

Links to this post

Create a Link

About

  • This is septicisle
profile

Links

    blogspot stats
    Subscribe

     Subscribe in a reader

Archives

Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates