The Sexual Offences

The Sexual Offences (amendment) act 1976 was replaced by the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence(1999) which sought new provision under S41-43. Under s41 no evidence can be adduced about the complaints sexual history unless the evidence relates to a specific incident within 24 hours of the alleged offence or is necessary to rebuilt prosecution evidence. However the judges can still allow evidence to be produced in relation to the victim and sex with other men then the accused.

The 'Women against rape' campaign have argued that such questioning will not determine whether a woman has been raped but will decide whether the woman will be protected by he law. Therefore it is clear that there are many reforms that the government have introduced to meet these cultural and social norms. Changes to date rape and marital rape have shown how myths and stereotypes are not true. The main principle of ensuring a fair trial judges are not influenced by these social norms.

So even though Makinnons argument does hold some substance, it is not enough to cover the whole of the rape cases which happen in the country. The law which has been put in place is very stringent and many women end up not taking there alleged perpetrators of this horrific crime to court because of the psychological issues, and the fact that they would not be able to go through all the details in court knowing that the perpetrator may only be sitting across the room.

A report carried out by the BBC showed from the second a rape allegation is made to the moment a verdict is delivered rape victims face a struggle for justice which compounds the ordeal they have already been through. The starkest indication of this is given by figures showing that in 1999 only one in 13 reported allegations resulted in a conviction, compared to one in three in 1977. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, who compiled the report, analysed 1,741 crime records from ten police forces, and examined hundreds of prosecution files.

They interviewed staff involved in the criminal justice system and sexual assault centres. In their 110-page report, the inspectors made 21 major recommendations. They found problems at every stage of the process. When victims first report a rape, some faced an "inordinate delay" before they were attended to. Waiting areas in many police stations were of "poor quality", and there were too few trained staff to help them.

The report acknowledges the difficulties faced by police and prosecutors during rape investigations. In most cases, the accused is known to the victim, there may not be medical evidence, there are unlikely to be independent witnesses and the case hinges around the issue of consent. But the inspectors say prosecutors should take a more pro-active approach to find evidence to support an allegation and – most controversially – they suggest that specialist lawyers should oversee rape cases.

Prosecutors who wish to discontinue a case should seek a second opinion before doing so. At trial – where seven in 10 rape suspects are acquitted – the report found that victims were often left waiting for long periods and were not informed about the progress of the case. In the witness box, they were subjected to excessive cross-examination by defence lawyers and prosecutors were "inconsistent" in the steps they took to stop upsetting and intrusive interrogation about the victim's sexual history.

The inspectors who carried out the report said the entire process needed "tightening up and sharpening", though there was no need for a major cultural shift as there was in the late 1970s. 

Birch D and Leng R (2000) Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 : London Blackstone press limited Edwards S. M (1996) Sex and Gender in the legal process : London Blackstone press limited Elliot C. and Quinn F (2000) Criminal Law 3rd edn Longman : London Smith J & Hogan B (1996) Criminal Law 8th edn Butterworths : London