Rape 57


Ed Miliband decided today to devote five of his six questions to the Prime Minister to an attack on Ken Clarke and a demand that Clarke resign over some comments on rape. It should be noted that Ken Clarke is a much more liberal and indeed left wing person than Ed Miliband. It should also be noted that Miliband is joining in an ativistic Mail and Telegraph campaign against Clarke’s attempt to move the justice system away from revenge and towards reform and rehabilitation – but that Miliband has managed to do so on a subject which brings far left and far right together in knee jerk reaction.

Those on the left who agree that we should aim to reform and rehabilitate murderers like the celebrated Jimmy Boyle, suddenly froth at the mouth with the far right when it comes to treatment of rapists.

If I say that some murders are worse than others or some assaults or robberies are worse than others, nobody will disagree. That is not to say they are not all very bad; but it is to say that there is a qualitative difference within the same category in different instances. That there are aggravating and mitigating factors, has been recognised by the law for centuries. Rape is no different. It is very horrible indeed – as bad as being stabbed repeatedly, if you want me to think of a crime of similar magnitude. But to claim every rape is equally bad as every other rape is to move into the realms of mysticism, to view the act not as a crime but as some sort of religious profanation. It is not. It is a crime like stabbing somebody – very serious indeed, but a crime.

The existence of mitigation or aggravation is recognised in the fact that lengths of sentences for the same crime vary. A wife who, in the passion of an argument with her husband, picks up a knife and stabs him, has done something very bad. But is it as bad as someone who with premeditation takes a knife, lurks in bushes and jumps out and stabs a stranger? Does society need to be protected from one as much as from the other? No, plainly not.

Equally, it is true that a boy who with his girlfriend moves, without her consent, from frottage to insertion, when he fails to control his passion, has done something very bad. But is it qualitatively every bit as bad as the rapist who with premeditation hides in the bushes to jump out and attack a stranger? No, plainly not. Or at least, if you wish to claim it is, you have to claim the stabbing cases given above have no qualitative difference either. Doubtless some witless protagonist will claim that I am saying the first case is OK. I am not. I am saying it is very bad. But I am saying the second is even worse.

Anybody who stabs someone or rapes someone deserves real punishment. But are all cases of rape or stabbing identical in quality? The notion is absurd. And the fact that a girl aged 16 years and one day is guilty of rape if she sleeps with her boyfriend age 15 years and 364 days is irrefutable proof of that (a point Clarke appeared to get slightly tongue muddled as he made it, talking of two 17 year olds).

Rape is much in the news lately, what with this, and the cases of Dominique Strauss Khan and Juilan Assange. The allegations against Assange, even if true, would not amount to rape in this country as they do not seem to involve the use of force or non-consensual sex. They are, frankly, very strange indeed, and given that rape trials in Sweded are held in secret and with no jury, I do not in the least blame him for fighting extradition tooth and nail.

The allegations against Dominique Strauss Kahn are of a different order as they do seem to involve violent assault and non-consensual sex acts. Plainly there is a very serious case to answer, especially given his known highly charged sexual history.

But I have been given pause today by learning that the police have amended their accusation to say that they were one and a half hours mistaken in the time that the rape took place. Given that it was reported pretty well immediately, how can there have been this confusion about when it happened? A ten minute mistake would be natural, but one and a half hours wrong in a period of three hours?

The difference is very significant, because the police were alleging that he raped her, then rushed from the hotel to the airport to flee. They now acknowledge as true the defence statement that he actually went to a lunch engagement quite close to the hotel before going to the airport. Given that his alleged hurried running away was a major factor in not granting him bail, this seems to me inportant. I repeat – how on earth could an investigation make such a very fundamental mistake?

My feelings of unease were then increased by US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner coming out to lead international demands for DSK’s replacement – as the prosecuting authority, surely it would behove the US government to shut up until he has been found innocent or guilty? Since then I have been listening to Ghanaian radio (I am in Accra) where callers are more or less unanimous that as the woman is from Guinea, in Francophone Africa, the Sarkozy connection is to blame. That fact is certainly a boon for conspiracy theorists.

DSK deserves the benefit of the presumption of innocence for now. We just don’t know what happened yet. The failure to grant him bail appears to me completely unjustifiable – where on earth do they think he will vanish, and how? There seems something peculiarly vindictive in the handling of this – of which his bail appearance without being allowed clean clothes or a shave was a stark symbol. Ed Miliband would doubtless approve. I wonder what populist right wing nonsense he is thinking up for next week.


57 thoughts on “Rape

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  • YugoStiglitz

    “where on earth do they think he will vanish, and how?”

    France. By private plane.

    • craig Post author

      I see. And the US can’t locate him in France, or has no extradition treaty with France? What nonsense.

  • angrysoba

    Since then I have been listening to Ghanaian radio (I am in Accra) where callers are more or less unanimous that as the woman is from Guinea, in Francophone Africa, the Sarkozy connection is to blame. That fact is certainly a boon for conspiracy theorists.

    How utterly absurd. Is this all that is necessary for a conspiracy theory to take flight now?
    .
    DSK deserves the benefit of the presumption of innocence for now.
    .
    Yes, yes, of course.
    .
    The failure to grant him bail appears to me completely unjustifiable
    .
    Apart from the fact he was just about to get on a plane when the cops caught up with him? And didn’t he leave his mobile at the hotel? Well, presumption of innocence or not, a judge presumably has to make a decision about whether someone is a flight risk on the basis of the known facts. If you were DSK’s lawyer how would you convince the judge that the alleged perp was on a plane at the time of his arrest but that he doesn’t constitute a flight risk?

    • craig Post author

      I would find that very simple. He was on a plane to attend an extremely well-trailed meeting in Brussels on the Euro zone bailout.

      • craig Post author

        On top of which, I have lost several mobile phones. How on earth does that make hum guitly of rape? And if you bothered to read the post, NYP now admit he did not leave his mobile phone in a rush to the airport – he actually went to a lunch appointment. Why are you repeating the initial propaganda which is not true?

  • Martijn Grooten

    Sir, I have kind of forgotten what prompted me to add your blog to my RSS reader, but I wanted to thank you for writing such a wise and insightful blog post.

  • Courtenay Barnett

    There is a second woman who made a statement in 2007 that Khan had done something similar. The reports coming out are that the lady from Guinea is 32 with a 14 year old daughter -single mom; lives in the Bronx; is a good worker at her job as a hotel maid; is a quiet devout Muslim. This does not strike me as the profile of someone who set a “honey trap” or is less than truthful.

    Khan, no doubt, will retain the best defence lawyers in the field and he will argue consent. His lawyers will set out to pick to pieces the inferences to be drawn from the physical and scientific evidence.

    Life goes on.

    • craig Post author

      Courtenay,

      If true. But it also doesn’t strike me as the profile of a woman so irresistible that a man who can get the most expensive prostitutes in New York would suddenly jump her. Not impossible, but as valid a surmise as yours. We don’t know.

      It is interesting to see these things from a Ghanaian perspective – people here know how extremely difficult it is for an ordinary African person to get a US visa, and it also is arousing much suspicion that a Guinean single mother menial worker with a child were able to enter the USA and work there.

  • Paul Johnston

    One thing I will say on the USA’s standpoint is that whereas they would like Roland Polanski returned to stand trial for rape of a 13 year old girl, since fleeing to France he is free from the possibility of extradition. If DSK were to return to France I would guess the chances of him ever standing trial would be about zero.

  • YugoStiglitz

    To Craig Murray:
    Hopefully soon you’ll read up on the matter and come to a basic understanding of the extradition process, at least between the U.S. and France. I suggest you start with the Polanski case.

    • craig Post author

      I agree that was not good – but I understood it was the length of time since the crime which was the official reason they would not extradite Polanski?

  • angrysoba

    Craig Murray: I would find that very simple. He was on a plane to attend an extremely well-trailed meeting in Brussels on the Euro zone bailout.

    .
    Then that somewhat answers your question about Tim Geithner calling for a replacement for the IMF chief, doesn’t it? I doubt he could get much done if this was hanging over his head.
    .
    But anyway, he’s still a flight risk if it appears he can get on a plane and was on one when he was arrested. Unless of course you are saying that someone of his standing shouldn’t be subject to the same kinds of suspicion as ordinary people. I mean, I know he’s a champagne socialist (and let’s face it, that’s the best socialist to be) but I didn’t really think that the Bernard Henri-Levy pleas were going to be accepted by salt-of-the-Earth folk like us.
    .
    BHL:
    And what I know even more is that the Strauss-Kahn I know, who has been my friend for 20 years and who will remain my friend, bears no resemblance to this monster, this caveman, this insatiable and malevolent beast now being described nearly everywhere. Charming, seductive, yes, certainly; a friend to women and, first of all, to his own woman, naturally, but this brutal and violent individual, this wild animal, this primate, obviously no, it’s absurd.

    This morning, I hold it against the American judge who, by delivering him to the crowd of photo hounds, pretended to take him for a subject of justice like any other.


    .
    Is DSK not a subject of justice like any other?

    • craig Post author

      Flight risk – you confiscate his passport and notify the borders, and impose bail reporting conditions. Standard procedure worldwide. It is why Julian Assange isn’t in jail here. DSK hasn’t been convicted of anything, and the notion he has to be kept locked up in the meantime is absurd.

  • MERCOURIS

    Dear Craig,

    I have to disagree with you about the Strauss-Kahn case. Obviously at this time we are dealing only with allegations. However rape is a very serious offence and even applying the standard you set out in your post the alleged circumstances in this case imply an aggravated case. A court does take the seriousness of the alleged offence into account when deciding whether or not to grant bail and in this case the decision to refuse bail seems to me to be the right one.

    • craig Post author

      I agree this is prima facie an aggravated case. But that is a sentencing issue – he isn’t guilty of anything yet.

  • angrysoba

    It is interesting to see these things from a Ghanaian perspective – people here know how extremely difficult it is for an ordinary African person to get a US visa, and it also is arousing much suspicion that a Guinean single mother menial worker with a child were able to enter the USA and work there.

    .
    Just out of interest, is DSK a big figure in Africa as a friend of mine from South Sudan was really, really interested in this story when it broke.

    • craig Post author

      The IMF looms large in African politics in a way it doesn’t really in the West, and there is a perception that DSK made it less doctrinaire and economically vicious. But I don’t pretend he is a well known figure beyond the more educated.

  • angrysoba

    Flight risk – you confiscate his passport and notify the borders, and impose bail reporting conditions. Standard procedure worldwide.
    .
    Well, this may well be true. But then nobody would be a flight risk and everyone would be granted bail. Yet this isn’t the case. Why not?

  • YugoStiglitz

    Polanski: no, France’s refusal to extradite Polanski was established not too long after his fleeing. He’s a French citizen, and France refused to extradite a French citizen, consistent with policy. The Polanski extradition issue came up in very recent years only because he traveled to Switzerland, where the U.S. found some sympathy among some officials.

  • angrysoba

    The IMF looms large in African politics in a way it doesn’t really in the West, and there is a perception that DSK made it less doctrinaire and economically vicious. But I don’t pretend he is a well known figure beyond the more educated.

    .
    Thanks for that. My friend from Juba is certainly well-educated. I suppose the IMF may also have been very involved in getting South Sudan on its feet. Not long now ladies and gentlemen … 9th of July is Independence Day.
    .
    I also know that DSK was rather popular with certain left-leaning types for being less inclined to austerity measures for developing countries. It would be a shame if it turns out to be true that he’s a mad rapist but we can’t simply believe what we like.

  • Herbie

    On the mobile phone issue:

    DSK phoned the hotel to let them know he’d left it in his room, and asked that they bring it to him at the airport where he was waiting for his flight. DSK was a long time regular at the hotel.

    Hardly the actions of a fleeing man, contrary to the prosecutor’s claims.

    I agree that the prosecution’s change of story and timings, when they found he’d a lunch alibi, stinks to high heaven.

    Generally when a defendant constantly changes his story, we assume he’s a liar. So we must assume in the case of prosecutors.

    There are of course many other things that stink about this prosecution case, as in the case of Assange or indeed that of (scourge of the banksters) former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer.

    I’ve no doubt there is serious criminality involved. At this point it seems much more likely to be the criminality of the prosecutors which ought to focus our attention, as in the cases mentioned above.

    Perhaps it’s too much to hope that the banksters have finally pushed their luck once too far in this case.

    I do hope though that DSK manages to live to tell his tale. I’m afraid I do have my doubts though.

    Much of what passes for a trial of this nature in these days is conducted in media. That job has been done. An actual court trial may now seem like an unnecessary extravagance to those changey story prosecutors.

    • craig Post author

      Herbie,

      It is peculiar that no other commenter has addressed the major change in the prosecution story, which is the most startling fact we have at present.

  • MERCOURIS

    Dear Craig,

    It is standard practice at least in this country and presumably in the US for the court to take the seriousness of the charge into account when deciding whether or not to grant bail. There are reasons for this which would take too long to discuss here. I have absolutely no doubt that an ordinary citizen facing such a charge would be refused bail. To grant Strauss-Kahn bail would be tantamount to saying that because he is the President of the International Monetary Fund and a possible future President of France he should be treated more leniently than everyone else. We both know that this usually is the case so it is surprising at least to me that the Americans have for once made an exception. By the way my brother who is at present in Greece tells me that a bitter joke is going the rounds there that if this had happened in Greece it would have been the maid who would have been arrested and refused bail.

    • craig Post author

      Alexander,

      I really do think you could find quite a lot of incidents of alleged rapists – and alleged murderers even – getting bail. DSK’s celebrity is actually a reason he can’t flee and disappear.

  • angrysoba

    DSK phoned the hotel to let them know he’d left it in his room, and asked that they bring it to him at the airport where he was waiting for his flight. DSK was a long time regular at the hotel.

    Hardly the actions of a fleeing man, contrary to the prosecutor’s claims.

    I agree that the prosecution’s change of story and timings, when they found he’d a lunch alibi, stinks to high heaven.


    .
    Why would it not be the actions of a fleeing man?
    .
    Being a long-time regular of a place also doesn’t discount rape either. Why would you think it does?
    .
    “Generally when a defendant constantly changes his story, we assume he’s a liar. So we must assume in the case of prosecutors.”
    .
    Not necessarily. It could be true but you haven’t made a proper case.

  • angrysoba

    I really do think you could find quite a lot of incidents of alleged rapists – and alleged murderers even – getting bail. DSK’s celebrity is actually a reason he can’t flee and disappear.

    .
    Yeah, but that type of thing is not going to please many people: “I’m rich and famous so give me bail!”

  • YugoStiglitz

    “But it also doesn’t strike me as the profile of a woman so irresistible that a man who can get the most expensive prostitutes in New York would suddenly jump her.”

    It might very well be that DSK is a sex predator. You clearly don’t think like a sex predator, so I’m not sure why you would ever feel comfortable putting yourself in his shoes. He might very well have also frequented expensive prostitutes, but nonetheless seeing that certain maid in a certain light caused his “pervert switch” to trigger. Jails in all countries are full of such opportunistic rapists.

    And I just don’t know what you mean by this woman’s “profile.”

    “It is interesting to see these things from a Ghanaian perspective – people here know how extremely difficult it is for an ordinary African person to get a US visa, and it also is arousing much suspicion that a Guinean single mother menial worker with a child were able to enter the USA and work there.”

    Right, but Africans do, in fact, get visas all the time, through a variety of avenues. You can check out the numbers on U.S. gov’t websites.

    But it might very well be that all the maids from Africa working at all the hotels in New York are sleeper agents secretly working for the U.S. government, ready to spring into action the moment the right opportunity arises.

  • Randy

    Ambassador Murray — Thank you for nuanced & intelligent analysis.

    In respect to the charges against Strauss-Kahn, the refusal to grant bail was a surprise. They could have required him to remain in the U.S., wear an ankle bracelet, and check in daily while the case was proceeding. Where exactly is such a well known figure going to flee? The jungles of Venezuela?

    It is striking that the police have suddenly changed the time at which the attack was alleged to have occurred. This is hardly a small error and it may suggest that they have realized that the original time of the alleged attack was impossible.

    This hardly proves his innocence, of course.

    The fact that Tim Geithner, the Guardian Angel of Goldman Sachs and all things Wall Street, has jumped into the case demanding his resignation is particularly interesting.

    With a legal presumption of innocence shouldn’t one be able to keep one’s job until proven guilty?

  • spectral

    The assumption that DSK, the head of IMF has been arrested because of “attempt of sexual assault” on someone who is hotel’s maid, who works for $8-10 an hour is ridiculous. Is this means that “justice being served” in US!?
    I used to work in hotel, and you are plainly – nothing, slave. It is just another example that Government Media Outlets may and will present us anything in shape, form and manner which suit them and their goals. Media and Government is one of the same, this is further proof of it. If they decided to crush anybody they will do it.
    This is demonstration of the state’s raw force (lawful or unlawful), and their hoodlums. It is sure sign of further deterioration/decline from the principles of the law. An externally this process took place long ago, and now it arrived at its own shores. It is also sign of cluelessness of the ruling class what to do! How to spearhead the economy which is mired in stagnation and regression.
    .
    Inccidentaly, on little different note I read yesterday this:
    http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/justice-british-style/

    Both stories tell us the same thing: Security State apparatus in service of euphemistically called liberal-democracies and their centers of the formal and informal powers is the threat to humanity and anything that surround us.
    .
    I had my own version of the story, which is basically that the current president in Paris is fit needs of the present and the future colonial interventions. Sarkozy’s first overseas trip was to Maine’s Bush compound and fishing together. And Sarkozy’s semi-brother is managing director of Goldman-Sachs.
    .
    Than I read this:
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article28103.htm#idc-cover
    which is the more likely the cause.
    .
    To have predatory nature, at the top of the food-chain, is something which is: required. IMF and WB (among others institutions) are employed by malthusians. They are raping the whole world since its inception, that is what they do, regardless be it DSK or somebody else – lawfully.
    .
    I think, as well, he was (probably) naive if he thought they will allow him to get into the Élysée Palace. It is one thing to be the head of IMF, and second to be president of the France.

  • Herbie

    Angrsoba

    The prosecution argued that his being on the flight indicated an attempt at quickly fleeing the jurisdiction, necessitating the denial of bail.

    The flight had been booked well in advance.

    There is no dispute that he stayed in the hotel room, so leaving his mobile behind would not have implicated him any further. His phoning the hotel to request they deliver his mobile only provided the opportunity for his capture.

    Not therefore the actions of a man in “flight” frantically trying to make good his escape. He let the hotel know where he could be found.

    I only mention he was a regular in an expensive suite to explain why he would assume the hotel would deliver his mobile to the airport.

    The changing of the prosecution story on hearing of his alibi is a very significant issue.

    The cleaning of rooms is quite routine. She told staff and others immediately. There ought not to have been any confusion over the timing of the incident, other of course than that DSK had an alibi for the time the prosecution originally alleged.

    The prosecution simply changed their timings on hearing of his alibi.

    As I said, the whole thing stinks to high heaven.

  • angrysoba

    Craig Murray: “And if you bothered to read the post, NYP now admit he did not leave his mobile phone in a rush to the airport – he actually went to a lunch appointment.”
    .
    I have read (and now re-read several times) the part of the post that begins with the DSK stuff. And yet I can’t find the part of the post that deals with the NYP [sic] “admitting” that he did not leave his mobile phone.
    .
    Whether he left his mobile or not, I do not know. You have provided us with no links to where you are getting your information. I said he left his mobile because that’s what I had read on several news stories. But why do you say:
    .
    “Why are you repeating the initial propaganda which is not true?”
    .
    This is a strange thing to say and clearly demonstrates that you’ve made up your mind already. It is propaganda! It’s not even a mistake. Okay, so what is the rationale for this conspiracy?

    • craig Post author

      angrysoba,

      he did leave his mobile phone – he dod not leave it in a rush to the airport. Sorry my punctuation could have made that clearer.

  • decora

    i dont think that rapsits particularly care about whether someone is ‘attractive’.

    what is ‘attractive’ to them is someone who is vulernable and powerless.

    there is a good george carlin routine about this IIRC.

    “every now and then you run into a story like this. some guy broke into a house. he stole a lot of things. and while he was in there, he raped an 81 year old woman. and im thinking to myself, WHY??? What kind of social life does this guy have?”

  • Richard

    A few technical points:

    1. a woman cannot be guilty of rape under English law.

    2. Unlike the USA, rape requires non-consent under English law; underage persons can consent to the extent needed to prevent a charge of rape (there is another offence of having sex with an underage person that would apply regardless).

    3. French citizens are not extradited by France. France asserts universal jurisdiction in respect of its own citizens, so if DSK were in France, France would decline to extradite, but would instead try him under French law for the offence allegedly committed in New York (or, of course, the magistrate could choose not to try him). It is for this reason – if he could get to France he would escape US law – that French citizens are regarded as unusually high flight risks in the US, and bail is rare for French citizens (all French citizens, not jsut famous powerful ones).

  • Tom Welsh

    I can’t get past Ken Clarke’s mention of statutory rape. Surely then, if two 15-year olds have sex together, isn’t that a double rape? And, according to the law as it stands, shouldn’t they both go to prison for a very long time? (Not that I think that would be a good idea, but why doesn’t it actually ever happen?)

  • Nigel Smith

    Reading the post and responses to comments it seems clear that Craig has already made up his mind on this one.

  • Phil

    Dear Mr. Murray,

    “The allegations against Dominique Strauss Kahn are of a different order as they do seem to involve violent assault and non-consensual sex acts. Plainly there is a very serious case to answer, especially given his known highly charged sexual history”.

    I agree with your thoughtful analysis, but [1] “they do seem to” (therefore, conjecture on your side), and [2] any “history” should surely be irrelevant, as, to the best of my knowledge (from reading the media) DSK has never sucessfully been charged with aything similar?

  • angrysoba

    “angrysoba,

    he did leave his mobile phone – he dod not leave it in a rush to the airport. Sorry my punctuation could have made that clearer.”
    .
    Okay, thanks. I didn’t read your comment correctly. My mistake.

  • willyrobinson

    In general terms, rape is not the same as stabbing someone because nobody can defend themselves by saying ‘it was a consensual stabbing’ – no jury can conclude that no crime has been committed.

    Rape conviction rates are apallingly low, and victims need the support of the Home Office in ways that the victims of other crimes do not. Most importantly, they need to reinforce the message that date rape is rape – not some lesser thing. YES, by all means let judges take circumstances into account when sentencing, but let’s not have ministers trivialise a serious crime before it comes to court. There may be circumstances (like where drugs like rohypnol are used, or when the rapist is a hated ex-husband) where date rape is worse than a man in the bushes.

    There are expert studies on this – part of the reaction is Ken Clark ignoring experts and studies in this field, and proclaiming himself the expert. While you (and Clark, to be fair) are normally a fountain of common sense, this is an area where we have to be guided by a body of scholarship on how best to tackle a terrible conviction rate while still giving due process to all who stand accused.

    • craig Post author

      willy,

      because one is harder to prove than the other, does not make it a more or less serious a crime than the other. I agree that rape will always be hard to prove, because of lack of witnesses and the consensual defence. I agree with you too that some date rape can be aggravated. I don’t think Ken Clarke said anything that can dispute that. Byt the idea that rape uniquely cannot be aggravated or mitigated is nonsense.

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