Let judges speak common sense on sexual assault

Telegraph View
Facebook picture of Rodrigues Gomes who was jailed for rape. - Facebook

Matters must not reach a point at which common sense cannot be aired for fear of causing offence. Outrage towards the remarks of Lindsey Kushner QC was predictable, given the highly sensitive subject matter of rape – but the retiring judge was still right to speak her mind. Summing up on a case in which a man had raped a drunken girl, the judge said that no rape victim is ever responsible for their crime, but that it would be “remiss” not to note that drink leaves individuals vulnerable and that “there are men out there who gravitate towards a woman who might be more vulnerable than others”.

The sad fact is that the world contains bad people who will take advantage of those who, for whatever reason, find themselves in a vulnerable position.

As the judge herself pointed out, warning people to lock their doors and windows at night is not an endorsement of theft but, quite the opposite, an attempt to prevent it from happening. And her words on the subject of sexual assault were informed by years of legal experience – real-world wisdom imparted with the best of intentions. Suggesting that she was victim-blaming was unfair and misrepresented a very humane message.

The right approach towards law and life is to accept the world as it truly is. Swim with sharks and one risks being bitten. The sad fact is that the world contains bad people who will take advantage of those who, for whatever reason, find themselves in a vulnerable position. No shame should be attached to that vulnerability, for no one ever invites themselves to be mistreated or deserves it. But just as we advise people to avoid walking around late at night in an area with a high crime rate, is it so unreasonable to warn both women and men that inebriation can be exploited? No, it is not. Lindsey Kushner, retiring with honour, is to be applauded for speaking some home truths.

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