Thursday, 19 May 2011

David Cameron’s crime policy is becoming a disaster

Ken Clarke should not be Justice Secretary

Sadiq Khan MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, said in response to Tory proposals on sentencing and Ken Clarke’s comments on rape:

“These proposals are an outrage and show how out of touch David Cameron’s Government is on crime. The idea that someone can get their sentence halved for something as serious as rape just because they plead guilty early is repugnant. It could mean a convicted rapist spending just 15 months in prison.

“Ken Clarke has heard first hand today the effects of the Tory-led Government’s flippant and complacent attitudes towards sentencing on victims of crime. He should not be Justice Secretary.

“You cannot have a Justice Secretary who has made no effort to meet with victims to discuss his proposals, who doesn’t understand the law on sentencing, and who seems to think that some rapes are inherently more serious than others.

“David Cameron must put victims and the public first. He should abandon his reckless sentencing policies and sack Ken Clarke.”


1. Ken Clarke's comments today show that he does not know what the Sentencing Guidelines for rape are:

"I don’t think many judges give five years for a forcible rape, frankly. The tariff is longer than that and a serious rape where you know, violence and an unwilling woman, the tariff’s much longer than that"
Ken Clarke, Radio 5 Live, 18 May 2011

2. Today, Ken Clarke repeatedly suggested that some rape cases are more serious than others:

VD: Rape is rape, with respect?
KC: No it’s not and if there’s an 18 year old has sex with a fifteen year old and she’s perfectly willing, that is rape. Because she’s under age, she can’t consent. Anybody has sex with a 15 year old it’s rape. So what you and I are talking about is we’re talking about a man forcefully having sex with a woman when she doesn’t want to. That is rape. Serious crime, of course it’s a serious crime, and I’m very glad that people do now go to the police and report it. There used to be a taboo against it in a sort of crazy way.
Ken Clarke & Victoria Derbyshire, Radio 5 Live, 18 May 2011

KC: It certainly will if campaigners give them the impression that the rapist is only going to get 12 months anyway. That’s just nonsense. Tabloid newspaper nonsense. He will get many years and…but in order to encourage him to stop raising it out and putting her through the ordeal again, instead of the present discount he would get, under the previous, tough governments and all that, of a third, in a case where the judge thinks it’s right where he really has shown contrition and is not making things worse can get a half off. But this has been parodied by people who don’t know how long rapists get and are claiming…
VD: Five years, the stats. Five years, the stats come from the council of circuit judges.
KC: And they include the 18 year olds having sex with fifteen year olds. And they include date rapes which…date rapes sometimes can be very confusing.
VD: So is date rape not as serious?
KC: Date rape can be as serious as the worst rapes but date rapes in my…you’re quite right to say very old experience of being in trials, they do vary extraordinarily one from the other and in the end the judge has to decide on the circumstances but I have never met a judge who confronted with a rapist as you and I would use the term in conversation would give him 12 months. That would be a crazy sentence.
Ken Clarke & Victoria Derbyshire, Radio 5 Live, 18 May 2011

MA: Victoria Derbyshire asked you a very simple question – “rape is rape with respect” – and the start of your answer is “No it’s not”. Now a lot of people will be surprised by an answer like that?
KC: Well what’s your reaction…I’ve given the answer, I’ve given the example of the 18 year old adult man who has sex with a 15 year old girl and she consents to having sex, she’s his girlfriend. That is rape. Now I agree it’s rape and rape is always a serious offence. But there are worse rapes where someone leaps out of the darkened wood and grabs somebody on a path. That is a very very grave…grave indeed and deserves a very very long sentence. Much longer than the sentences that are being bandied about by people commenting on this. But of course the reason why I was protesting about her using these average sentences was rape is a very serious crime and rape is treated by the courts as a serious crime…
Matthew Amroliwala & Ken Clarke, BBC News, 18 May 2011

3. The sentencing guidelines on rape set out that:

The guideline uses the starting point of 5 years for the rape of an adult with no aggravating or mitigating factors (derived from Millberry and others1) as the baseline from which all other sentences for offences in this guideline have been calculated. Since the judgment in Millberry, changes introduced by the CJA 2003 have both affected the structure of custodial sentences of 12 months and above and introduced new sentences for those convicted of many of the offences in this guideline where the court considers that the offender provides a significant risk of serious harm in the future.
Definitive Guideline to Sexual Offences Act 2003, Sentencing Guidelines Council, April 2007

4. The sentencing guidelines also say "it is impossible to say that any one form of non-consensual penetration is inherently a more serious violation of the victim’s sexual autonomy than another":

2A.2 It is impossible to say that any one form of non-consensual penetration is inherently a more serious violation of the victim’s sexual autonomy than another. The Council therefore has determined that the sentencing starting points established in Millberry should apply to all non-consensual offences involving penetration of the anus or vagina or penile penetration of the mouth.
• 5 years is intended to be the starting point for a case involving an adult victim raped by a single offender in a case that involves no aggravating factors at all.
• 8 years is the suggested starting point where any of the particular aggravating factors identified in the offence guidelines are involved.
Definitive Guideline to Sexual Offences Act 2003, Sentencing Guidelines Council, Aprl 2007

5. The Conservative proposals are that defendants pleading guilty to crimes including rape at an early opportunity could half their sentence:

“We want to ensure that defendants are encouraged to plead guilty at the earliest opportunity by reducing the sentence given for an early guilty plea (the “sentence discount”). We are considering whether this could be better achieved by introducing a maximum discount of up to 50 per cent that would be reserved for those who plead guilty at the earliest stage.”
Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders, December 2010

6. Ken Clarke admitted today he has not met with victims of rape to discuss his proposals:

VD: have you met women who’ve been raped?
KC: I’ve taken part in rape trials when I was a lawyer. Yes I’ve met women who’ve been raped.
VD: And have you put this idea to women who’ve been raped?
KC: No I haven’t put this idea to women who’s been raped because I haven’t met one recently but I…my experience of rape trials is that trials…
VD: Wouldn’t it have been…it was a long time ago.
KC: Yes but I don’t think rape’s changed all that much. What happens is that the women finds another ordeal is now being imposed on a woman who is already distressed and traumatised enough by the rape finds she’s now in a witness box in front of a jury with a lawyer accusing her of lying going over the whole thing again.
Ken Clarke & Victoria Derbyshire, Radio 5 Live, 18 May 2011