JUDGE Mary Jane Mowat knows she is putting herself in the figurative stocks by raising the unpalatable fact that juries find it difficult in rape and sexual abuse cases if the victim admits they were drunk.
She will be accused of victim blaming, of being part of a criminal justice system indifferent to the trauma that women go through when they are violated and then have to relive to bring their attacker to justice.
But such reactions are one-dimensional and miss Her Honour’s important distinction: she is not saying women get raped because they are drunk, and by extension are in part authors of their own misfortune.
What she is saying is that within the court environment the jury will naturally question the strength of the victim’s evidence if she (or he, to be fair) admits they were drunk.
The jury, simply, have to consider this element because they have to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt to convict. And in our experience many jurors, on an emotional level, find it harder to convict someone of being a rapist than a murderer.
Rather than shooting down Judge Mowat, her point on this – and ‘fraudulent’ prison terms – should be the starter for debate. She is raising this not to blame victims but to give insight to one of the impediments to putting sex attackers behind bars.
Judge Mowat wants to see more successful prosecutions. And more predators behind bars would increase the confidence of other victims to come forward and lead to another surge in successful prosecutions.
There is unquestionably still progress to be made in how our criminal justice system deals with the victims of sexual attacks.
But that does not mean we should ignorantly dismiss a retiring Judge who dares, in her wish to make our society safer, to say something that goes against a politically correct grain.