New guidance on consent issued

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Published: Wednesday 28th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Police and prosecutors are to be given fresh guidance about the issue of consent in rape cases, the Director of Public Prosecutions said.

For the first time a new “toolkit” will move well beyond the idea of “no means no” to spell out situations where possible victims may have been unable to give consent to sex, Alison Saunders said.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said this includes situations where someone is incapacitated through drink or drugs or where “a suspect held a position of power over the potential victim – as a teacher, an employer, a doctor or a fellow gang member”.

The ability to consent to sex should also be questioned where the complainant has mental health problems, learning difficulties or was asleep or unconscious at the time of the alleged attack, it said.

It also covers domestic violence situations and those where “the complainant may be financially or otherwise dependent on their alleged rapist”.

The toolkit also advises officers and lawyers to ask how the suspect knew that the complainant had consented “with full capacity and freedom to do so”.

Mrs Saunders said: “For too long society has blamed rape victims for confusing the issue of consent – by drinking or dressing provocatively for example – but it is not they who are confused, it is society itself and we must challenge that. Consent to sexual activity is not a grey area – in law it is clearly defined and must be given fully and freely.

“It is not a crime to drink, but it is a crime for a rapist to target someone who is no longer capable of consenting to sex though drink.

“These tools take us well beyond the old saying ‘no means no’ – it is now well established that many rape victims freeze rather than fight as a protective and coping mechanism.

“We want police and prosecutors to make sure they ask in every case where consent is the issue – how did the suspect know the complainant was saying yes and doing so freely and knowingly? “

Mrs Saunders gave a speech at the first National CPS/Police Rape Conference on Rape Investigations and Prosecutions, held at the CPS’s London headquarters today.

At the conference, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt, the Association of Chief Police Officers lead on adult sex offences, said: “As report after report has shown, there is still far too much variation in the way that forces move a complaint of rape through the system.

“Reporting of sexual offences is up 22% in the latest statistics because of increased confidence in our service and recording but we have further to go.

“We need to tackle the iconic issues of ‘no further action’ and, particularly, ‘no crimes’ head on and reduce inconsistencies in our processes so that we can send a clear and unequivocal message to victims about how they will be treated.”

Published: Wednesday 28th January 2015 by The News Editor

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