21 FEBRUARY 1987, Page 8


Why rapists, at least, should be spared from female justice


Along last, as I predicted it would, rape seems set to emerge as one of those things which Londoners actually do, as opposed to being one of the things they just talk about. If, as we have been told, the incidence of rape increased by 50 per cent last year in the Greater London area, then this is indeed a significant develop- ment, whatever allowances are made for greater readiness to report the crime. It begins to look as if all the agitation by such organisations as Women Against Rape is bearing fruit at last.

Where, two years ago, the average woman in the Greater London area would have had to live for 15,000 years before standing an even chance of having been raped in that time, she now has to wait only 10,000 years. If the alleged rate of increase is maintained, it will be slightly less than 23 years before she has an even chance of being raped every year.

`Judge Nina Shows the Way,' screamed the front page of the Daily Mail on Saturday. Like nearly all newspapers in Britain, it had been 'campaigning' for heavier sentences for rapists. On Saturday we learned that Mr Cecil Gilbert, the bogus bishop, had been sent down for 16 years by the Old Bailey's only female judge, Mrs Noreen Margaret (Nina') Low- ry, for the rape of some virgins whom he had previously drugged.

The usual group of backbench MPs hastened to give us the benefit of their opinions on the subject. Mr Geoffrey Dickens said: 'You could almost hear the sigh of relief throughout the country.' Mr `Terry' Dicks (Hayes and Harlington) agreed. Mr Harry Greenway, whose con- stituency embraces the Ealing vicarage where a young woman was raped last year, and who has been agitating for a 20-year minimum sentence, said: 'I think this makes much better sense.' A Labour MP, Mr 'Tony' Banks, joined the chorus: 'It suggests there should be a woman judge in rape cases. As a rule, men do not take rape charges as seriously as they should.'

Let us examine some of these proposi- tions before exploring my own theory that rape is on the increase precisely because of all the hysteria being generated on the subject. Nobody can suppose that the purpose of greatly increased sentences is deterrent. The male sex drive is not such that a man about to rape a woman will be deterred by the difference between a five- year and a 15-year sentence if he is brought to book. Its purpose must be punitive — to express society's abhorrence of the crime — and in part preventive — to keep the rapist out of circulation and prevent furth- er rapes for as long as possible. But the prospect of a life sentence, or a 20-year minimum sentence for rape, can have only one logical effect on the rapist, which is to give him a powerful incentive to murder his victims, too. Is this what these backben- chers want, or are they planning to re- introduce the death penalty for murder at the same time as imposing a 20-year minimum sentence for rape? Or are they just making silly noises and hoping to get themselves into the newspapers? I feel we should be told.

But it is the suggestion that rape cases should be heard only by women judges which seems to me to go to the root of the problem. The motive of Mr 'Tony' Banks in making this ludicrous suggestion would appear to be his belief that women judges would give stiffer sentences, on the assumption that stiff sentences are good things in themselves. He cannot, of course, suppose that stiff sentence will deter rape, or make any significant contribution to reducing its incidence. Rape has existed since time began. The Roman republic was founded on an act of mass rape, according to the legend which was fostered and propagated throughout Rome's long his- tory. Only two things have altered since ancient times. In the first place, women started complaining about it rather more loudly; their complaints created a general fear of rape among women which was out of all proportion to the actual danger. In the second place, rapes and sexual assaults on women, having remained more or less constant and showing an overall decrease since 1971 (see HMSO Social Trends), have now shown a significant increase for the first time.

It might well be that fear of rape encourages rape, but fear of rape is some- thing Which it is beyond the authorities' power to control. My own contention, that the sight of women judges handing out stiff sentences for rape will have exactly the opposite effect to deterrence, needs rather more explaining.

Anybody who wishes to discourage rape must first try to understand the mind of the rapist — something our shrill tribunes of the people seem extraordinarily reluctant to do. It is all very well to shout 'evil monster', 'fiend' and the rest of it, but this scarcely does anything to solve the prob- lem. The important thing is to discover why these monsters, fiends etc choose to express their evil natures in this way. Sex is not particularly hard to find in our society, as it might have been in previous times, for any male who is prepared to make the effort to ingratiate himself to womankind. Rape involves much more effort. Its mo- tive, I would suggest, is seldom merely sexual gratification. More often than not, I suspect, the motive is a deep and burning hatred of women, a sadistic urge to make /hem suffer and humiliate them.

This would also explain why so many cases of rape also involve sodomy — as, I believe, the Ealing vicarage rape did. The question we should ask ourselves is what has happened to bring about such a large increase in the hatred of women, the desire to hurt and humiliate them.

The most obvious answer is that women have become more assertive, they make more noise. From the bitter young feminist at his place of work who complains of sexual harassment if he smiles at her to the squawking harridans of Women Against Rape, modern man may find himself under more or less constant attack from the opposite sex. From Esther Rantzen and Mrs Currie to the Prime Minister herself on television, he may find himself forever being told what to think and being bossed into attitudes he does not hold.

In New York, faced by the new genera- tion of go-getting, liberated career women, many modern men gave up on the fairer sex altogether and embraced the homosex- ual parallel culture in their droves. In London, the men seem happy to cringe, for the most part, only occasionally taking their revenge in bestial acts of cruelty. But if people are genuinely concerned to discourage rape, as opposed to making Robin Day-style noises of outrage about it and congratulating each other on their superior ,moral attitudes, they would do well to ponder its causes. I may, of course, be wrong. It would certainly be a waste of time to urge women to make less noise. They are not as much worried by rape as that. But if I am right, then nothing could be better calculated to exacerbate the would-be rapist's hatred of women than the appointment of special female judges to try cases of rape.