Barrister David Osborne has incited a media frenzy, after posting a - now edited - blog in which he challenges the newly suggested guidelines regarding consent.
Writing in his personal blog, in a since edited post titled She Was Gagging For It, Osborne railed against new guidelines which are set to be issued to the police regarding rape allegations in the UK, with the onus to now be placed upon suspects to prove that the woman consented to sex instead of proving that she said ‘no’.
The Somerset based Osborne, who also has chambers in London, disagreed with Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions at the Crown Prosecution Service, who said that women should not be punished if they were incapacitated.
In a since deleted section of the blog, he wrote: "If the complainant (I do not refer to her as the victim) was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, when she was ‘raped’, this provides the accused with a complete defence. End of story and a victory for fairness, moderation and common sense!"
He added: “I have always found it distasteful and unattractive the suggestion that as the victim was blind drunk she was therefore unable to give her consent to sex, or more to the point, she gave her consent which she would not have given had she been sober.” He made a further controversial statement to the Daily Mirror, saying: "I tell you what would drop the rape statistics would be if girls covered up, dressed appropriately and stopped drinking themselves legless."
Osborne has been a practisting barrister for over 35 years and specialises in public access work. In 1991 he delivered a final speech to the jury in verse, after which he was branded the 'Barrister Bard', which is the name of his blog. He has appeared as a news commentator on BBC and Sky News.
The director of End Violence Against Women Coalition, Sarah Green, told the Daily Mirror: “I find it hard to believe this is not some kind of sick joke or a parody”, while Clare Jones of WomenCentre said: “It’s appalling. We are deeply shocked that even today, in 2015, someone can seriously suggest that the violent crime of rape could be provided with a complete defence if a woman was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time. Is Mr Osborne suggesting that women need to be teetotal in public places in order to protect themselves?”
Osborne later added an addendum to his post, in which he clarified his opinion, saying he did not think a drunk could not be raped, but stood by his original piece. “I have received many emails supporting my views, so the issues raised above need to be addressed,” he wrote. “By way of clarification, I withdraw unreservedly the suggestion reported in the Mirror that a woman incapacitated by drink or drugs or both cannot be raped.”
Rape Crisis reports that roughly 85,000 women a year are raped in England and Wales, but the latest figures show that just 5,670 attacks were reported to the police and of the 2,910 cases which went to court, only 1,070 led to a conviction.
Last month Saunders spoke at the National Crown Prosecution Service Police Conference on Rape Investigations and Prosecutions in London and set out the new guidelines regarding consent, commenting: "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."
The guidelines also say that 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.
"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," said Saunders.