The sentence for "serious" rape?
The most depressing thing about the most recent version of the "rape debate" is way it has come down to how long the rapist should be banged up for. The worse we think the crime, the longer they should spend in clink. For what?
On the Today programme this morning Vera Baird was attacking the proposal that rapists who pleaded guilty should have a 50% sentence reduction. The argument was that if the average sentence for a rapist was 5 years, then a 50 % reduction meant 2.5 year which with remission for good behaviour would mean 15 months. Just 15 months, she said.. for rape?
Well, there are all kind of factors to weigh up here. As Ken Clarke has pointed out the 'average' sentence includes those sentenced for 'statutory rape'. for any sexual encounter with those aged under 16 however consensual. So the 5 year average is already an odd, and far from from average, figure.
But leaving those figures aside, and assuming the 15 months sentence, is that a fair punishment?
That's where the 'bang em up" mentality seems hopelessly misguided. Most websites today have deplored the idea that a rapist should be let out in under 2 years. WOT 15 months for rape?
No-one stopped to say.. well 15 months in the nick, that means total loss of job, probable mess of any family relationship, disintegration of family itself (ie punishment for them), plus the conversion of a wrongdoer into a hardened criminal (that's what prisons do). Well done judicial system. Cant we think of something more humane and better and more designed to stop them doing it again? Isnt there something we can do better for the victim as well as the perpetrator?
Now before you say: you wouldn't say that if you had been raped .. let me say I have been raped.
You can read the story here. On the Clarke scheme, it was slightly less than the most serious, but not at the bottom of the heap. I have to say that I agree with him that there are gradations in this crime. I didnt think of going to the police but, if I had, I would have thought that my rapist deserved far less a penalty than if he had jumped at me with a knife or a gun ( I never felt in mortal danger).
And if I had pressed charges, I dont actually think that I would have wanted the guy banged up. I really, really would like him not to have done it again, and I would have liked to have got the chance to tell him what a tosser he was .. but I dont think I would have wanted to have ruined his life, as he didnt -- in the end -- ruin mine.
I know I may be tougher in all sorts of ways that other victims of rape; but that doesnt mean that my views shouldn't be heard too. The thought that he would have been in a jail for years would NOT have been my dream or desire. I would much have much preferred that he spent a long series of weekends picking up rubbish in a seedy Italian town, or using his skills (he was an architect) for free, in the city planning of Italy. Or actually just saying sorry. (If the biscuit factory architect is reading this, he still can say sorry...)
But overall it has been a bad week for those of us who worry about the modern obsession with imprisonment. The Today Programme also revealed that the maximum penalty for passing off penalty points for speeding onto someone else was life imprisonment (it's perverting the course of justice).
Have we all lost our marbles?