We pointed out last week that some are against the use of juries in rape trials – now, here’s Julie Bindel to tell us that juries shouldn’t be used in rape trials. No, we’re not prophetic, we just know how some minds don’t work. Bindel’s complaint is essentially that juries don’t accord with her prejudices about rape. Which is the point of juries of course, that they don’t accord with Bindel’s prejudices. Nor mine, not yours either. The jury is there to accord with society’s general prejudices on matters. That’s the point.
Juries have no place in rape trials. They simply can’t be trusted
The individual’s great protection against prosecution by the state – don’t forget that it is indeed the full power of the state facing the accused – shouldn’t be used in one specific crime? Why’s that then?
Look, for example, at the Ched Evans case, a footballer who was convicted of rape but later had his conviction quashed and was acquitted at a retrial that relied on evidence of the complainant’s alleged sexual history. Despite some male barristers arguing that feminist campaigners were overreacting, the case showed us how women in rape cases are often more on trial than the defendant. Then there is the scandalous case in Cork, during which underwear belonging to a 17-year-old complainant was held up for the jury to see, with the suggestion that she was “open to meeting someone”.
The fact that acquittals are significantly higher in cases involving young men may reflect the fact that many jurors don’t want young men labelled and stigmatised for life by a rape conviction; even where the evidence is strong, they may be bringing to the case their own anxiety that it could happen to their son, brother or friend. Two thirds of such cases end in acquittal.
That’s her complaint. Juries acquit some she thinks should be convicted. But then that’s the very point of having that jury system:
There are indeed overtones of that hated past here. “You’ve had sex once, consensually, so this wasn’t rape because you’re not a virgin” is only just over the line into caricature. But to insist that this decision, as with others, means we should change juries is to miss their point.
English law – and I rather assume Irish, a slightly different system – doesn’t like even the discussion of jury nullification. The Americans don’t like it just as much but will debate it. The point being that one of the good reasons for the jury being there is that we’ve a group in the court and trial system able to just say “but we don’t think that should be a crime.” Or even “the punishment is too high, we’ll not find guilty, or only of a lesser crime and therefore punishment.” When we’ve a system which does not include just average members of the public called in off the census rolls then it’s far too easy for a system to end up dominated by those with bees in their bonnet.
The classic observation being theft to the value of five shillings. Which used to be punishable by hanging or more likely transportation. At a time when juries themselves defined the value of what had been stolen it’s amazing how many people were convicted of theft to the value of 4 s 11 d.
The entire point of the jury system is to make sure that some monomaniac like Julie Binfel doesn’t gain control of the system. If she did we’d have charges of sexual assault for men who asked a girl twice – twice I tell you! – if they’d like a drink. Hell, for using the word girl for someone past menarche. If I, that gammonish representation of the patriarchy, were in charge of course no woman not clad at the time in a total body chador, preferably inside a burka, would even be able to bring a complaint the temptress little minx. The point of the jury system being that us monomaniacs shouldn’t be in charge – the definition of what is a crime, the standards required to prove it, the punishments when it is, are things which are meant to be determined by the balance of society. Exactly why we use 12 random members of society to decide those things.
Bindel’s complaints are exactly why we must use juries in rape trials.