Labour’s deputy leader has called for an end of the culture of blaming rape victims for their own sexual assault.
Harriet Harman rounded on Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine for suggesting that victims “cry rape” when they regret a sexual encounter but are not actually sexually assaulted.
“We're not talking about a man making a mistake here - as Sarah Vine does. We’re talking about a criminal offence,” Ms Harman said in a strongly worded statement released last night.
“If I leave a window open an inch and someone breaks in, steals everything I own and ransacks my house no one would say it wasn't a crime or that the offender had ‘made a mistake’.”
Ms Vine, who is also the wife of former education secretary Michael Gove, had branded the new Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders “politically correct” and said she had declined to have an “intelligent conversation” about of rape.
Outlining her view, the Labour MP added: “Rape is the crime of sexual intercourse without consent. If there is consent then it’s not a crime. What is at issue here is where there isn't consent and how we make sure that women are protected from rapists and that they are brought to justice.”
She also backed new reforms announced by the Director of Public Prosecutions around the way rape crimes are investigated by authorities.
The DPP Alison Saunders gave advice to police clarifying the situations in which a person can consent to sex, aimed at dispelling “myths and stereotypes” about rape.
The new guidelines say that someone may not be able to freely judge sexual consent when they have been incapacitated through drink or drugs or where the person they are having sex with holds a position of power.
“The Director of Public Prosecutions is independent of politicians and her job is not to make the law but to enforce it. And that's exactly what she is doing in respect of rape. She's trying to ensure that victims of rape get justice,” Ms Harman said, endorsing the recommendations.
“The DPP will carry on her work in the best interests of justice. And more power to her elbow. She's doing the right thing and it’s long overdue. It’s not my job to prosecute rapists. It’s hers. But I for one am backing her all the way.”
The Metropolitan Police launched the new guidelines with the CPS in a joint conference.
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