Barrister savaged over rape blog

Barrister David Osborne
Barrister David Osborne

A barrister who criticised new legal guidelines about rape in a blog titled “She Was Gagging For It” has been condemned by campaigners who branded his views “alarming” and “deeply offensive” – but others have said these issues must available for debate.

David Osborne said men should walk free from rape trials if the victim says she was too drunk to give valid consent, and claimed “consent is consent”.

Mr Osborne, who was called to the criminal Bar in 1974 and has fought cases in the Court of Appeal, said he found it “distasteful and unattractive” that a victim cannot give consent when “blind drunk”.

Campaigners said his “deeply offensive” blog ignores current law around consent and plays up to old-fashioned stereotypes of rape victims.

The blog was posted in response to guidance issued to lawyers and police officers dealing with rape cases by Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, which spells out situations where possible victims might be unable to give consent to sex, including because of alcohol or drugs.

Mr Osborne wrote: “I have always found it distasteful and unattractive the suggestion that as the victim was blind drunk she was therefore unable to give her consent to sex, or more to the point, she gave her consent which she would not have given had she been sober.

“In my book, consent is consent, blind drunk or otherwise, and regret after the event cannot make it rape…

“I have a very simple solution which I hope you will agree is fair. If the complainant (I do not refer to her as the victim) was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, when she was ‘raped’, this provides the accused with a complete defence.

“End of story and a victory for fairness, moderation and common sense.”

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners said however distasteful Mr Osborne’s views may be these are legitimate issues for debate.

Mr Leech said: “Personally I find his views offensive, they have no place in a modern society simply because consent can’t be any consent at all if you are incapable of knowing precisely what it is you are consenting to.

“But these issues must be debated, especially by tackling head on antiquated views like these, because the confusion surrounding the issue of consent in sex, as we saw with the recent Ched Evans rape case, can damage the lives, futures and livelihoods of victims and culprits alike.”

The rape guidelines issued last month advise officers and lawyers to ask how the suspect knew the complainant had consented to sex ”with full capacity and freedom to do so”.

Rape Crisis England and Wales spokeswoman Katie Russell said: “Through his unwillingness and inability to grasp the simple legal principle that consent must be freely and fully given by someone with the capacity to do so, he has merely illustrated the desperate ongoing need for measures to improve the criminal justice system for sexual violence survivors.

“On top of this, it is outrageous and depressing that someone practising law in the 21st century should be so unabashed about airing such baldly misogynistic and victim-blaming views.”

Mr Osborne also suggested that rape crimes would fall if girls “covered up”.

He told the Daily Mirror: “You’ve seen the news sequences of girls who, regardless of the weather, have their backsides sticking out of their dresses and their tits hanging out of the same dress.

“Wandering around the streets, staggering around and then wondering at the end of all that why somebody has, if you like, taken advantage of them.

“I tell you what would drop the rape statistics would be if girls covered up, dressed appropriately and stopped drinking themselves legless.”

Sarah Green, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said the thought the blog was a “sick joke”.

“This is a legal professional indulging in the oldest stereotypes about rape, probably for attention-seeking purposes, and appearing to condone the predatory behaviour of men who target vulnerable girls.

“I suggest he takes time to look at the impact of rape on survivors and how the situation is made worse by being told by people like David Osborne that it is their fault.

“We’ve moved beyond putting restrictions on women’s movement and behaviour. We need to talk about men not raping women, not women preventing rape.”