Women can’t consent to sex when drunk, says leading lawyer

The last decade has seen a 68 per cent rise in rape claims


Women cannot consent to sex if they are drunk, according to a top lawyer who wants radical change. 

Leading silk Dame Elish Angolini said there should be an alcohol limit to consent. If a woman is deemed too drunk, they could automatically claim they were raped.

The Principal of St. Hugh’s College Oxford is calling for a change in the law to account for not being able to consent if you’re intoxicated.

Currently, lawyers cite previous rape cases where alcohol has been involved. Judges and juries then decide whether the accused took advantage of someone when they were unable to consent to sex.

Now Dame Elish wants a limit on how much alcohol someone can drink before they can be considered unable to say yes.

Blood tests would be carried out on alleged victims of rape by police to test the amount of alcohol in their system. If the accuser was judged to be drunk, they could automatically claim they could not consent and were raped.

Dame Elish Angolini

Dame Elish Angolini

For anyone accused of rape, the recommendations would make it almost impossible to claim they thought someone had said yes.

The review — commissioned after an alarming rise in rape cases — focused on victims of rape and the current procedures in dealing with them. And Dame Elish, Scotland’s former top prosecutor, has asked for radical change.

In her report, she said some victims blame themselves or feel shame from their ordeals, something she called a “toxic psychology”.

She says one rape victim was “relieved that she was conservatively dressed” when attacked outside her home, because she didn’t want her appearance to be blamed.

The report says from 2005 to 2014, there has been a 68 per cent rise in sexual attacks — but only 17 per cent in charges.

Dame Elish’s findings have lead to Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe to change how police deal with victims.

He said: “We have to give the same priority to sex offence investigations as we do to counter-terrorism.

“Year on year, victims have demonstrated the confidence to come forward and report this most horrendous of crimes.

I am determined to lead an integrated response which will deliver a first class service with the victim at its heart.”

Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS London Baljit Ubhey, said: “Rape is an abhorrent crime which can have a devastating, and long term, impact on the lives of victims.

“It is a crime which is seriously under-reported with many victims feeling unable to tell anybody about their traumatic experience.”

The recommendations come after stats earlier this year revealed young people are more likely to blame victims if they are drunk.

One in three 16 to 19-year-olds think rape victims are “at least a little bit responsible” if they have been drinking.

Among people aged over 25, the number blaming victims rose to fewer than one in four.

The study also revealed 20% of rape victims were unconscious or asleep, while a third were “under the influence of alcohol”.

The ONS report was based on the Crime Survey for England and Wales – a questionairre of thousands of people.

A total of 6 per cent of respondents said the victim is “completely/mostly responsible if they are drunk.”

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecution in the UK, recently unveiled new laws to tackle victim blaming.

Top lawyer Alison Saunders wants an end to victim blaming

Top lawyer Alison Saunders wants an end to victim blaming

The new law makes clear behaviour such as staying silent or using contraception does not signify consent.

It specifies consent cannot be given when someone is incapacitated through drink or drugs or when a suspect held a position of power over the potential victim as a teacher, employer or doctor.

And the ability to consent to sex should be questioned when someone has mental health issues, learning difficulties or was asleep or unconscious when the alleged attack happened.