Defining Consent in Rape Cases Involving Alcohol Consumption

Defining consent in rape cases involving alcohol consumption

In recent years, both the media and the government in the UK have been increasingly preoccupied with the problem of rape involving alcohol. This is due to the fact that the line to be drawn between consensual sex and rape where a complainant is heavily intoxicated is a particularly difficult area of the law. Amid growing frustration at the falling conviction rate in cases of rape, as well as government proposals for the revision of the legal definition of rape, this is an area that has attracted national media attention and stinging attacks on judicial decision-making ("Response to OCJR consultation", 2006). This essay aims to explore some relevant rape theories such as positivist, feminist and critical approaches, the myths some these theories have generated, as well as the notion of consent in regards to inebriated victims.
One of the most notable changes in criminology and criminal justice policy during the last two decades has been the significant shift in emphasis from an offender-focused criminal justice system to attention being placed upon victims of crime (Tapley, 2005, p. 327). For instance, the Sexual Offences Act (SOA) 2003 came into force on the 1st May 2004. The purpose of the Act was to strengthen and modernise the law on sexual offences, whilst improving preventative measures and the protection of individuals from sexual offenders (Temkin, 2004, p. 25). Consequently, rape is now seen as a more serious offense than it once was and awareness has been raised regarding the treatment of victims by the criminal justice system as well as the public and media (Burrows, 2013, p. 385).
The 2003 Act was brought in after the introduction of a series of rape laws. For example, the 1956 SOA defined rape as unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman, while the Sexual Offences Act 1976 stated that rape is sexual intercourse without her (sic) consent and also introduced anonymity for complainants...