Azara Blog: Cameron uses rape as a lesson in morality

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Date published: 2007/11/12

The BBC says:

Tory leader David Cameron has called for tougher sentences for rapists, saying too many men "think they can get away with it".

England and Wales have the lowest conviction rate - 5.7% - among leading European countries, he said.

He pledged longer-term funding for rape crisis centres, to change attitudes towards rape through sex education and announced a Tory review of sentencing.
In a speech at the Conservative Women's Organisation conference, Mr Cameron said: "Studies have shown that as many as one in two young men believe there are some circumstances when it's okay to force a woman to have sex.

"To my mind, this is an example of moral collapse."

He also called for compulsory sex education in schools to drive home the message that sex without consent is a criminal offence.
Mr Cameron announced that shadow justice secretary Nick Herbert will carry out a review of rape punishments to ensure they are "proportionate to the crime".

BBC Radio 4 carried several balanced discussions about this Cameron speech, unfortunately the BBC website failed to follow suit and just lets Cameron get away with quoting selectively. In particular, it is difficult to compare conviction rates between countries because in some countries, like the UK, there is much more likely to be a trial in the first place. As with all crimes, the more you are willing to try, the less you are going to convict (because the weight of evidence becomes less and less). And his all-but-promise to make the sentencing higher could well result in fewer convictions. Juries know that to convict an innocent person of a heinous crime like rape is a very serious matter, and the higher the punishment, the higher the bar must be to achieve conviction. Unfortunately Cameron either seems not to understand this, or will happily counteract this effect by forcing the bar to be made lower in order to achieve a higher conviction rate. You can easily imagine that some day men accused of rape will have to prove they are innocent, the State will not have to prove they are guilty. This is the Blair/Cameron view of justice, where it is ok to sacrifice some innocent people (like the Brazilian killed by the British police) just to play it safe. All in all, expect that many more innocent men will go to prison.

But the worst aspect of Cameron's speech is not his abuse of statistics or inability to think through the consequence of what he has said. The worst aspect of Cameron's speech is his claim that rape somehow has something to do with the "moral collapse" of the nation. Who is he kidding? Does he think that rape is a 21st century phenomenon? Does he think that rape victims received a more sympathetic hearing (from the courts, the press, etc.) in the 1950s or the Victorian era (the two periods the Tories always hark back to) compared with today? Does he think that on the whole men treated women better in the past than today? Unfortunately this clown is likely to be running the country in a few years.

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