Judge 'dreadfully wrong' over rape ruling

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The Independent Online

A legal expert criticised a judge as "utterly wrong" today after he threw out a rape case on the basis that "drunken consent is still consent".

High Court judge Justice Roderick Evans directed a jury to bring in a not guilty verdict against a university security guard accused of raping a student, "even if you don't agree".

His judgment came after the 21-year-old alleged victim admitted under cross-examination she was too drunk to remember whether or not she had agreed to sex.

Her admission, coming on the second day of a rape trial at Swansea Crown Court, meant the case against the defendant collapsed.

Ryairi Dougal, 20, from County Donegal in the Irish Republic, had insisted throughout that sex between them had been consensual.

High Court judge Justice Roderick Evans gave his direction after the prosecution made it clear it was offering no evidence.

But today Labour MP Vera Baird, criminal QC, and head of the All Party Parliamentary Groups for Domestic Violence and the group for Survivors of Sexual Abuse, said the judge was incorrect.

"He is wrong, there is no doubt about that, it is a dreadful error," she said.

"The judge is utterly and totally wrong, he needs to be spoken to and sent on some re-training.

"This is a dreadful outcome because women will now think they cannot have a single glass of wine - I think this is going to put women off coming forward again and again."

The case revolved around the student who became extremely drunk during a party at Aberystwyth University's arts centre.

A friend insisted someone walk her to her halls of residence flat and Mr Dougal, a part-time university security guard, was chosen.

Two days later the student complained to a university counsellor that something had happened and the police were called in.

Mr Dougal was then questioned and claimed they had consensual sex in the corridor near her flat.

That was the first time the alleged victim, who suspected something had happened, became aware that she had had sex.

During the trial the student told the court: "If I had wanted to sleep with him I would have taken the few steps to my bedroom."

Ms Baird said the girl had acted in a "responsible" way after having too much to drink by getting someone to walk her home.

"She could not have done more to get herself home," said Ms Baird. "She had gone to get help."

Ms Baird said under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the judge's ruling could not stand.

Under section 74 of the Act, a person must have the "freedom and capacity" to give consent.

But the alleged victim was drifting in and out of consciousness, said Ms Baird.

"If you are unconscious then how does that relate? Consent requires something positive.

"She said she passed out, she came round and became aware that something was happening. She came round later, had a flashback and called the police."

Ms Baird said under section 75 of the Sexual Offences Act, if a person was unconscious then it could not be counted as consent.