Judge who said rape trials were hard to prove if the victim was drunk is rapped by bosses
- Judge Philip Shorrock said such cases should require independent evidence
- But he has been reprimanded by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office
- The JCIO said Judge Shorrock’s behaviour ‘amounted to misconduct’
Judge Philip Shorrock has been reprimanded
A judge who said rape prosecutions were hard to prove if the alleged victim was drunk or on drugs has been reprimanded over his remarks.
Judge Philip Shorrock suggested such cases should require independent evidence.
He made the comments following a series of trials in which men were cleared of raping women too intoxicated to give a clear account of what had happened.
In a letter to a newspaper, Judge Shorrock said the men were ‘usually and unsurprisingly acquitted’ by juries – and asked whether such cases should go to trial again.
But he has been slapped down by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office – with the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor finding he ‘had commented publicly on a politically sensitive issue without seeking guidance from the relevant leadership judge and that his behaviour amounted to misconduct’. A statement from the JCIO added: ‘They have issued him with a reprimand.’
The rebuke was handed out in line with the previously expressed opinion of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, who accused Judge Shorrock of perpetuating ‘the victim-blaming rape myths’ that ‘allowed sexual predators to offend with assumed impunity in days gone by’.
Judge Shorrock, based at Liverpool Civil and Family Court, spoke out in March after a series of controversial cases.
It is an offence for a man to have sex with a woman when she is too drunk to give meaningful consent. But if the man is similarly intoxicated he can argue that he was also not aware of what was happening. If there is no independent witness – which is almost always the case – then juries are unlikely to find the case proven beyond reasonable doubt, as required.
One of the trials which sparked the row was the last of three rape cases involving undergraduates at Durham University.
Louis Richardson, 21, had met a fellow student at a club, and begun a relationship with her. But she reported him after the last time they had sex, claiming he had raped her while she was ‘crazy drunk’. The jury cleared him, however, after hearing that she had sent him flirtatious Facebook messages after the alleged attack.
Alison Saunders, who accused Judge Shorrock of perpetuating ‘the victim-blaming rape myths’ that ‘allowed sexual predators to offend with assumed impunity in days gone by’
The court was told she had called him a ‘sexy menace’ and said ‘I’ll let you spank me’.
Mr Richardson’s barrister argued the girl was ‘highly manipulative’ and that her claims demeaned genuine rape victims.
Writing to the Daily Telegraph, Judge Shorrock, who has 40 years experience, said he saw a pattern of the Crown Prosecution Service’s guiding principle – bringing cases only with a realistic prospect of conviction – being ignored.
‘The complainant and the defendant know one another,’ the judge wrote. ‘One or both has or have been drinking and or taking drugs. Each gives a plausible enough account as to what happened. There is no independent evidence which tends to suggest the complainant is telling the truth.
‘In such circumstances the defendant is usually and unsurprisingly acquitted. Perhaps the CPS understands the words “realistic prospect of conviction” to mean something which is not obvious to the rest of us.’
Earlier this year, retiring judge Lindsey Kushner QC warned that men were likely to take advantage of intoxicated women, observing that ‘a girl who has been drunk is less likely to be believed than one who is sober’.
Retired judge Mary Jane Mowat, has suggested such rape cases have increased since late night drinking was liberalised, adding that juries seem unhappy to rely on the evidence of women who were so drunk that their recollections are blurred.