On the 21st December 2017, Charlotte Proudman had published in the Guardian an article on the Liam Allan case and its ramifications. She appears rather upset about it. Well, as a barrister she might very reasonably be upset about the issues that case raises around disclosure. But that is not what seems to upset her the most. What does is “the dampening effect” the case might have on encouraging other women to allege rape, and, of course, obtain convictions. (She does not use that phrase, but I believe that is the expression commonly used in this context).
I’d like to examine just three sentences in Ms Proudman’s article. You will need to be familiar with the Liam Allan case before reading further.
The first is this,
“(However) the reporting on cases such as these, with a focus on a few text messages out of 40,000, may leave future victims less likely to come forward.”
I am all admiration.
I do appreciate the noble art of misdirection.
Note how that sentence acts like Novocain on the intellect. Its grammatical structure suggests that it contains a logical inference. But actually it is a logical miasma, a piece of verbal hypnosis. It gives the false impression that “a focus on a few text messages out of 40,000” acts to logically connect “the reporting on cases such as these” so as to make “future victims less likely to come forward”. But let’s pull it apart.
“a focus on a few text messages out of 40,000”: The subliminal suggestion here is that because only a few text messages were pertinent in the Liam Allan case, and that constitutes only a tiny percentage of 40,000, that that somehow diminishes their importance. Eh? What? If there were a billion messages, all totally irrelevant bar one, but that one was “the sex was entirely consensual” – that’s all one need know, isn’t it? The allusion to “a few text messages out of 40,000” is merely an attempt to fog the reader’s brain.
“the reporting on cases such as these…..may leave future victims less likely to come forward.”: Let us examine what “the reporting on cases such as these” means. It means the reporting of the fact that clear documentary evidence of the consensual nature of a sexual encounter will be taken by a court to negate a claim of rape. But that could only be a deterrent to potential complainants if such clear documentary evidence of consent existed. And that could only be the case if the person in question was considering making a false allegation, not a true one. So there is no way that “the reporting on cases such as these” could possibly “leave future victims less likely to come forward” if we consider only true victims. What Charlotte Proudman appears really to mean is that the Liam Allan case might leave future dishonest claimants less likely to make a fraudulent rape allegation – but, oddly, she regards this as a bad thing.
The sentence is a double non-sequitur.
That sentence is immediately followed by a short paragraph,
“The reporting of the Allan case sends a message to women that your allegation of rape might not be believed if you claim that a sexual encounter was consensual and later report rape….. This contrasts with the law, which says a woman can withdraw her consent to sexual intercourse at any time.”
Now, I do not have Ms Proudman’s legal training. However, I strongly suspect that when the law says “a woman can withdraw her consent to sexual intercourse at any time” it is actually referring to any time during the incident in question. I don’t think the law is intended to legitimise retrospective withdrawal of consent.
And yet this is apparently what Ms Proudman has in mind.
Look closely at the tense of the verb. She is positing a case in which “you claim that a sexual encounter was consensual”. This clearly indicates an antecedent condition of a state of consent existing during the encounter. And yet, Ms Proudman appears to interpret the law in such a way that this would not invalidate an allegation of rape – because “a woman can withdraw her consent to sexual intercourse at any time.”
This is precisely apposite to the Liam Allan case because one of the text messages was “it wasn’t against my will or anything”. Note the tense.
Simply put – to the ordinary man and woman in the street – whose wisdom I generally hold in substantially higher regard than that of barristers – the existence of evidence that the complainant considered that the “sexual encounter was consensual” is sufficient to invalidate any allegation of rape.
Staggeringly, and chillingly given that this woman is a barrister, Ms Proudman is arguing otherwise. She does seem to believe that a woman (but seemingly not a man) should be able to withdraw consent retrospectively.
Ms Proudman appears to believe that women should be able to recharacterise any sexual intercourse as rape, unilaterally, at will, after the event.
If this is the way the law is to go, I suggest the public should be made more clearly aware of the fact. Perhaps it could be part of Sex and Relationship Education in schools. Of course, under such conditions, sex would not be legally advisable for men.