This is a lovely put down of the stupid contribution by Brendan O’Neill:
“Is the law a matter of fact or opinion? Today, Brendan O’ Neill followed George Galloway, John Pilger, and Tony Benn to become the latest non-lawyer to offer up his understanding of the law on rape. He’s also the latest to get it wrong, and he probably won’t be the last.
In absolute truth, the law on a particular issue at any given time can be fuzzy. Our legal system regularly relies on the higher courts to bring clarity where what exists is anything but: badly-written Acts of Parliament, a glut of past rulings recent and ancient, and a nebulous sense of how certain words and phrases would now be commonly understood. This is why controversial cases often appear to result in judges changing the law, when what they are seeking to do is just to tidy up an incomprehensible mess.
But O’Neill has fatally misunderstood what is meant by the word “intent” in context – despite the fact it is set out in the very Act of Parliament he quotes, the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Rape is made out where the accused “does not reasonable believe” the other person consents. In other words, if the accused truly believed that there was consent, but the court held that belief to be unreasonable (for example because it was based on what the complainant was wearing), the accused would still be found guilty. O’Neill’s statement that “the man must know that there is no consent… must not believe that consent is present, and therefore must know that it is absent” is, then, straightforwardly untrue.
As the CPS indicates in the publicly-available legal guidance that O’Neill appears not to have bothered reading, this was a major and quite deliberate Parliamentary change to the law that existed before 2003, under which an honest belief in consent, however unreasonable, negated the offence. But frankly, we don’t need to go all the way to the CPS for this: it is so settled a legal principle that a first-year law student could probably reel it off in an instant. “