Men and women 'cannot consent to sex if they are drunk', new report suggests

Current sexual offence laws do not provide a definition for whether an alleged victim is 'incapable'

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The Independent Online

A rape charity has welcomed a report into sexual offence legislation that has called for legal amendments so a person who is severely intoxicated would lose the capacity to consent to sex.

A major overhaul of the way police and prosecutors tackle rape in London was demanded following the release of an official report which warned that the capital is being "overwhelmed" by a rise in reported cases.

Report author Dame Elish Anglioni said the Government would be asked to consider amending sex offence laws so that the impact of severe intoxication - such as alcohol - is embedded in legislation.

Current laws do not provide a definition for whether an alleged victim is "incapable", meaning it is a matter for a jury to decide whether the complainant was so intoxicated as to be incapable of granting consent.

Rape Crisis England & Wales spokeswoman Katie Russell said: "Rape Crisis welcomes the commitment to transparency, scrutiny and improvement that the commissioning and publication of this report.

"It should be noted, nonetheless, that this isn't the first time we’ve heard positive sentiments such as these from criminal justice agencies and it is imperative now that encouraging words are translated into real action and cultural change."

In 2007, the Court of Appeal ruled that a person may be capable of consenting even if drunk, but that the capacity to consent "may evaporate well before a complainant becomes unconscious".

The review has made 46 recommendations to address areas including improved training and enhanced victim care.

Concerns were raised that the system risks being "overwhelmed" by increased reporting of rape, with officers within the Sapphire rape investigation team having an average of 15 live cases at one time.

Dame Elish said: "There is an urgent need to ensure that the system is not overwhelmed because of a failure to fund the positive outcome of that policy."

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said the review of rape investigations in London "shines an honest light" on failings in the service.