I'm very bothered by the six-month custodial sentence handed down to a teenage young woman who apparently falsely accused four men of rape. Why am I bothered?
Rape is a seriously under-reported crime, because it is horribly traumatic to report rape and try to 'prove' your version of events in the face of denials and counter-accusations from those whom the woman accuses. In light of this sentence, rape victims will have an additional fear that if the law believes the man's story, she could then herself be in the dock accused of 'perverting the course of justice'. A vastly under-reported crime could become even more under-reported.
(It's far less severe, but I can't help being reminded of the situation in Iran, where if a woman accuses a man of rape but can't 'prove' it by producing witnesses, then she could be charged with adultery and executed.)
Of course, being falsely accusd of rape must be a horrible experience. There is an urge to want "something to be done" to stop malicious accusations. But sending an 18-year-old to prison is not the something that should be done.
The judge branded her 'evil'. Evil?! A teenager who, even going by the facts accepted by the court, got very drunk in the company of older, more confident men, had sex with them all and woke up panicked and overwhelmed by what she had done ... Evil?! I doubt it. Screwed up, maybe. Life problems, perhaps. Out of order, nasty, possibly. But the 'evil' label smacks far too much of the notorious judges who have blamed women for being raped because they manipulated poor, innocent men.
And someone please tell me ... How is going into youth custody for six months going to help this young woman at all?
In this case, the accused men were not found 'not guilty' as the case never went to trial. She dropped the accusation as soon as she was aware that they had recorded mobile phone video footage of her lap dancing and inviting sex. The 'false accusation' resulted in them being detained for 36 hours - which was no doubt distressing and traumatic for them, but I don't see how it warrants a six-month jail term.
Jail sentences help hardly anyone, so yes, there should be a through review of the criminal justice system, including for rapists. As a representative of the Prison Officers' Association said at the recent TUC Congress: "90% of prisoners should not be in our care - they should be in the care of ther NHS". That said, there are many rapists who should be locked up (while receiving rehabilitative care) - in order to protect women.
I hardly think that men need 'protecting' from this woman. If she were convicted of lying but not imprisoned, then any further malicious accusation she made would be rightly treated with suspicion.