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[Video] Mathura: The rape that changed India

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Not many remember that 40 years before the horrific events of December 16, 2012, there was another incident, where a girl even younger than Jyoti Singh was raped.

Her name was Mathura and she was raped by police constables.

She survived and appealed to our courts but did not get justice.

Mathura’s journey through the criminal justice system however, gave rise to a women’s movement that spanned the whole of India and led in 1983, to groundbreaking change in the law on sexual violence against women.

It also inspired an extraordinary act of courage from four law professors who dared to raise their voices against the judiciary and pursue legal reform.

Join us to learn from Padma Shri Professor Upendra Baxi, Dean of the Delhi University Faculty of Law Professor Ved Kumari, and Senior Advocate Rebecca John, the story of Mathura’s rape, its transformation of our vocabulary on sexual violence, the changes it brought about in the law, and the inspiring personalities who made it happen.

Written by myLaw

The marital exception to rape: How to make a crime disappear

SayakDasguptaSir Matthew Hale, one of England’s greatest jurists, was a simple, humble, and fastidiously honest man. In fact, so unimpeachable was his character that, despite being a royalist who defended the opponents of the Commonwealth of England during the English Civil War, he was still appointed a justice of the common pleas by Oliver Cromwell when the Commonwealth came to power. When the Restoration happened, the King appointed him Chief Baron of the Exchequer, even though he had held office in the government of his mortal enemies. Hale, it is said, had no desire to receive the knighthood, so he literally had to be tricked into it (Lord Clarendon invited Hale to his house where the King was waiting to knight him on the spot).

For all his virtues, though, Hale was as much of a fusty old antiquarian when it came to women, as you would expect from a privileged, white, devoutly Puritan Englishman from the 1600s. In a letter to his granddaughters, he wrote longingly of a time when “the education and employment of young gentlewomen was religious, sober, and serious, their carriage modest and creditable was their habit and dress” and “when they came to be disposed of in marriage, they were themselves a portion whether they had little or much, and could provide for and govern a family with prudence and discretion, and were great helps to their husbands, and knew how to build up a family, and accordingly were instruments in it”. He bemoaned how times had changed and “young gentlewomen learn to be bold, talk loud and more than comes to their share, think it disparagement for them to know what belongs to good housewifery, or to practise it, make it their business to paint or patch their faces, to curl their locks, and to find out the newest and costliest of fashions.” He wrote that he would never allow his granddaughters to be like this, that he would train them to be “good wives and better portions to your husbands than the money you bring, if it were double to what I intend you, for you will be builders up of a house and family, not destroyers of it”. Above all, he wanted them to be “good examples to others, and be thereby a means to take off the reproach that justly enough lies upon the generality of English gentlewomen, that they are the ruin of families”.

Like most men of the time, Hale saw women as some sort of loveable hybrid between a trainable pet and an obedient servant, who should be strictly controlled lest they go out of hand. It is perhaps somewhat revealing that after his wife died, Hale married his housekeeper, Anne Bishop, whom he described in his will as “most dutiful, faithful and loving”, words that can also be used to describe an adoring butler or a loyal dog.

No longer enough to create further exceptions”

Four centuries of faith in wedding vows forming permanent consent for sex. Mathew Hale (left), when he was Chief Justice of the King's Bench and Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi. Maneka Gandhi's image is from the Press Information Bureau.

Four centuries of faith in wedding vows forming permanent consent for sex. Mathew Hale (left), when he was Chief Justice of the King’s Bench and Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi. Maneka Gandhi’s image is from the Press Information Bureau.

Perhaps Hale’s most famous work as a legal scholar is the Historia Placitorum Coronæ or The History of the Pleas of the Crown, which was published in 1736 (60 years after his death, despite an instruction in his will clearly stating that none of his manuscripts were to be published posthumously) and is considered a seminal work in the development and evolution of common law. It was in this book that he wrote the now (in)famous line that had been used until relatively recently in most common law countries to defend marital rape:

“But the husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband, which she cannot retract.”

The husband, then, by virtue of marriage, gained complete right over his wife’s body. Wedding vows were meant to be a form of permanent consent for sex. It would not be a stretch to say that for most women at the time, the bond of marriage was akin to bonded servitude mixed with sexual slavery.

This would be the norm in England for the next two centuries, but changes in social attitudes towards marriage began to make the marital exemption to rape seem increasingly more ridiculous with every passing year. In 1990, the Law Commission in England released the Working Paper No. 116 on Rape within Marriage in which it recommended unequivocally that the exemption should be abolished. But the final death knell for the spousal exemption came in 1991 with the House of Lords’ landmark decision in R. v R, in which the court held that “Hale’s proposition is based on a fiction and moreover a fiction which is inconsistent with the proper relationship between husband and wife today.” The judges observed that “courts have been paying lip service to the Hale proposition, whilst at the same time increasing the number of exceptions, the number of situations to which it does not apply. This is a legitimate use of the flexibility of the common law which can and should adapt itself to changing social attitudes,” but then added the powerful line: “There comes a time when the changes are so great that it is no longer enough to create further exceptions restricting the effect of the proposition, a time when the proposition itself requires examination to see whether its terms are in accord with what is generally regarded today as acceptable behaviour.”

On the question of whether the court should step aside to leave the matter to the Parliamentary process, the House of Lords stated: “This is not the creation of a new offence, it is the removal of a common law fiction which has become anachronistic and offensive and we consider that it is our duty having reached that conclusion to act upon it.”

RvR_HouseofLords_ChiefJusticeLordLane

With these words, England removed the marital exception to the crime of rape. In the United States, states had begun to remove this exception since the 1970s, and by 1993, all 50 states had done so. By the dawn of the 21st century, marital rape was a crime in most European nations. Our neighbour Bhutan had declared it a crime as far back as 1996, and Nepal followed suit 10 years later. Today, marital rape is a crime in the majority of the countries in the world. India, however, chooses to remain on the list of countries where it isn’t; a list that includes Afghanistan, China, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

In the wake of the horrific events of December 16, 2012, the Justice J.S. Verma Committee reflected long and hard on how our criminal law system deals with various kinds of sexual violence perpetrated on women and children. Nearly six pages of its Report concentrated on the problem of marital rape. It recommended that the exception for marital rape be removed (Exception 2 to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 states that “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape”), and that the law ought to specify that a marital relationship between the perpetrator and the victim cannot be used as a defence against rape and that it should not even be regarded as a mitigating factor justifying lower sentencing for rape.

MaritalExceptionToRapeIPC

The ordinance that was drafted on the basis of the Report included many of its recommendations but left out some of the most important ones, perhaps chief among them the recommendation on marital rape. Defending the ordinance, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said that issues like marital rape were difficult and that the government needed more consultations. This was, to put it mildly, perplexing. In modern times, the criminalisation of marital rape seems to be a very simple, logical, rational conclusion. In fact, one needs to perform several extraordinary feats of mental gymnastics to justify and legitimise the opposite. How is it that those who maintain that rape should attract the harshest punishment for the perpetrator suddenly find the act acceptable when a husband does it to a wife, as if a wedding is a Harry Potter-esque invisibility cloak that makes the crime disappear?

As a response to the government’s hedging on the issue, we posted the following comic on Facebook on February 9, 2013:

WSDP - Marital Rape

Now, I confess there are problems with this comic – it’s a little simplistic, and also Einstein might not have been the best choice to deliver this lesson as he was hardly the greatest husband in the world – but, the point was that it does not, or should not, take a genius to understand why the marital exception to rape should be removed.

A family that disrespects individual autonomy together…

And now, it seems the marital exception is one of those things the UPA and NDA governments agree upon. Well actually, while the former claimed that they were at least considering it, the latter seem to have ended the conversation altogether. Maneka Gandhi, the Minister for Women and Child Development has said, “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament, etc.” This is a stunning departure from her position on the marital exception to rape just last year and the most puzzling argument I have ever heard about a legal issue. What does illiteracy or poverty have to do with amending a law that demonstrably causes physical and mental trauma to individuals? Did social customs and religious beliefs of some people stop the legislature from making laws against sati, child marriage, dowry and caste-based discrimination?

MaritalRape_CriminalLawAmenedment2012

The “mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament” point is an old one. The claim is that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman (only between a man and a woman), and that the state has no business interfering in the domestic affairs of a married couple. This argument is woefully flimsy. Laws on domestic violence and divorce would not exist if the state did not think legal intervention was necessary even in a marriage.

A similar argument was used in a report on the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee prepared by the Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs and presented in both houses in March, 2013. It stated that while some members had suggested that Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code should allow “some room for wife [sic] to take up the issue of marital rape”, that “no woman takes marriage so simple [sic] that she will just go and complain blindly” and that “consent in marriage cannot be consent forever”, several members “felt that the marital rape [sic] has the potential of destroying the institution of marriage.” The report went on to say that “In India, for ages, the family system has evolved and it is moving forward. Family is able to resolve the problems and there is also a provision under the law for cruelty against women. It was, therefore, felt that if the marital rape is brought under the law, the entire family system will be under great stress and the Committee may perhaps be doing more injustice.”

What this suggests is mind-bogglingly terrifying. It seems to assert that the foundation of an Indian family is not based on trust, love, equality, understanding, cooperation, mutual respect and interdependence. It is based on a skewed power structure where one partner gets to inflict violence on the body and mind of the other, where the success of the relationship depends on how much the partner with less power can endure. Imagine being punched in the stomach by your brother and then being told that you should just suck it up because the law says when your sibling hits you, it’s not assault. Now imagine that he beats you up whenever he pleases and you are told that this is not a crime being committed repeatedly on your body because surely, as a family, you can work things out. If you report him to the police, the family system in India will crumble. Surely, the preservation of the “Indian family” is more important than the physical and mental trauma being caused to you.

The Standing Committee consisted of 29 members at the time, none of whom had any specific experience or expertise in women’s issues. Only 3 of the members were women. One of them was Dr. Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, a Trinamool leader who in December, 2012 had said that the gang rape of Suzette Jordan in Park Street, Kolkata “was not at all a rape case. It was a misunderstanding between the two parties involved between a lady and her client,” thus insinuating that Jordan was a sex worker. When the report was published, a dissenting note was appended to it, and among other things, it condemned the Standing Committee’s position on marital rape as unconstitutional and contrary to the Justice Verma Committee’s recommendations. The note was given by only two members of the Standing Committee: D. Raja and Prasanta Chatterjee, of the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist), respectively. No other member recorded dissent.

India’s relationship with its colonial era laws is simultaneously confounding and tragicomic. On the one hand we puff up our chests with pride when we think of our freedom struggle and victory over our colonial oppressors, and on the other hand we cling stubbornly and blindly to their archaic laws, which have no place in modern times – laws that even they have done away with. But what is truly depressing is that we undervalue women so much that we would rather grasp at half-baked fictions and outdated notions of family than address the real harm being done to real individuals in real time. We are only too happy to declare that our society is too primitive to accept modern ideas and then sacrifice the safety of women on the altar of our own apathy. Yes, laws are often only amended after there has been a change in social attitude towards the issue in question, but in India, we have also had a long history of enacting laws as instruments to bring about such social change. We can either embrace that history and move with the times or throw in our lot with a man who died four centuries ago and a belief that should have died with him.

(Sayak Dasgupta wanders around myLaw.net looking for things to do.)

Written by myLaw

Rape shield: Prohibit use of victim’s sexual history in rape trials

SuhasaniRao_RainmakerfacultyUnderstanding the need for greater awareness to deal with sexual offences has come into focus over the last two years. The law in this regard is changing. However, there still remain some gaping holes in a framework that should be comprehensive. This article explores some of the issues that remain unaddressed by the current laws in force, in India, concerning sexual offences.

Rape Shield Laws

In India, victims of sexual offences are guaranteed anonymity. Under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, disclosing the identity of a victim of certain sexual offences is a crime. Till as late as 2003, it was lawful to bring up the previous sexual history of a victim of rape in order to establish consent. In 2003, a provision of the Indian Evidence Act, 1882 (“Evidence Act”) was deleted in a move towards providing protection to the victims of rape. Further, Section 146 of the Evidence Act now prohibits the questioning of a victim of rape along the lines of her previous sexual history in order to prove consent, in a rape trial. These provisions together, provide a limited rape shield in the Indian legal framework.

Rape shield laws limit the ability of defendants to cross-examine complainants in rape trials about their past sexual history. They also prohibit the disclosure of the identity of alleged rape victims.

SexualHarassmentAtTheWorkplaceMOOC2The philosophy behind these laws, firstly, is that the prior sexual history of a complainant is irrelevant to the question of whether an offence of rape can be established. The facts of the particular instance should be the only evidence that determines guilt. They provide an extra layer of protection to “victim blaming”, the phenomenon of holding the victims of crimes partially or even completely responsible for the rape. The violation of their anonymity and the disclosure of the identity of a rape victim often lead to more violation through increased scrutiny and the stigma attached to the offence of rape. Moreover, given that sexual offences violate the most fundamental right of a human being to exist in peace with full bodily integrity, rape victims often feel a deep sense of fear and trauma when identifying their attackers. Maintaining the anonymity of rape victims is therefore also aimed at providing victims with a sense of security when noting their testimony.

Rape shield laws around the world

These laws trace their origins to the 1970s and 1980s in the United States of America when most of the states provided different levels of protection for rape victims such as mandatory anonymity and restrictions on the admissibility of the previous sexual history of victims as evidence in rape trials. Since then, rape shield laws have been formulated in many jurisdictions. In the United Kingdom, the Youth and Criminal Justice Act of 1999 prohibited the use of a victim’s sexual history as evidence in a trial. In New Zealand, a rape victim’s sexual history has to be vital to the context of the trial for it to be permitted in evidence. Otherwise, the law prohibits the use of such evidence. Similarly, in Australia, rape shield protection is applicable in all territories. Even Ireland, a fairly conservative jurisdiction, has rape shield protection for victims of sexual offences with very limited exceptions to the prohibition of admissibility of the victim’s sexual history as evidence.

Conflict with fair trial rights

Often however, rape shield laws present a conflict with the defendant’s rights to a fair trial, including the defendant’s right to confront the complainant and challenge the veracity of the allegation. The rape shield law in the United Kingdom for example, was read down by the House of Lords, holding that a law that bans juries in rape trials from hearing evidence that an accused had a previous sexual relationship with the accuser breached his right to a fair trial.

Thus, most rape shield laws are couched in negative terms, completely excluding the rape victim’s sexual history from being introduced as evidence. Thereafter, exceptional cases are listed where such evidence may be introduced, notable among them being situations where the defendant’s constitutional right to a fair trial may be violated.

The argument for some measure of anonymity of the defendant in trails of sexual offences is finding some ground in current debate as well. It is opined that it is necessary to keep the identity of the defendant under wraps, at least until the judgment in the case is declared. This is because the stigma attached to sexual offences can deeply affect and destroy the lives of not just the direct victims of the offences, but also the relatives and family members of the defendants.

Absence of a rape shield law in India

Indian laws provide limited protection to victims of sexual offences by prohibiting the disclosure of their identity. The need for a rape shield law in India needs to be seen alongside efforts to combat other types of secondary victimisation of rape victims. Rape victims in India would often be subject to insensitive examination and humiliation by public authorities such as medical examiners and law enforcement professionals in charge of investigating the offence, including the “two-finger test”, (“TFT”) involving a physical examination by a medical practitioner of the rape victim’s genitalia. (In India, a man cannot be a victim of rape). The medical practitioner would insert two fingers into the rape victim in order to establish the “laxity” of her muscles and determine whether the victim was “habituated to sex”. A finding that the complainant was habituated to sex would assist the defence. In fact, in such cases, the defendant would claim that any sexual intercourse between the victim and himself was consensual since the victim was “used to sexual intercourse”.  The pervasiveness of the two-finger test meant that successful prosecutions for rape were limited to instances where the victim was a virgin or at least perceived to be so, at the time of the occurrence of the crime.

The Supreme Court of India has repeatedly grappled with the TFT and has had many a scathing opinions on its applicability. A decisive change of the law occurred last year in Lillu v. State of Haryana in 2013. The Court outlawed the TFT in the following words: “…., the two finger test and its interpretation violates the right of rape survivors to privacy,  physical and mental integrity and dignity. Thus, this test, even if the report is affirmative, cannot ipso facto, be given rise to presumption of consent.”

In light of this judgment, on December 16, 2013, the Department of Health Research under the Indian Council of Medical Research issued guidelines to prohibit the use of the TFT in forensic medical examinations of victims of rape. This prohibition is now part of the Instruction Manual for Forensic Medical Examination Report of Sexual Assault (Victim) brought out by the Government of India.

It is now a medically accepted fact that the loss of virginity can occur without intercourse. Given this scientific evidence, it becomes necessary to re-evaluate the way the law perceives and protects victims of sexual offences. Discarding the use of the TFT was a small step.

There is an immediate need for clear legislative directives throughout the judicial hierarchy, the media and members of the law enforcement agencies to approach the crime of rape with greater sensitivity. It is the need of the hour to implement a humane and a sensitive understanding of the offence of rape so that a rape victim’s trauma is not prolonged through brutal investigation and trial procedures.

(Suhasini Rao is part of the faculty on myLaw.net.)

(This article was corrected on May 1, 2014 to remove an error of law. The prior version did not take into account the 2003 amendment to the Evidence Act. We are grateful to our readers for bringing this to our attention. – Editor)

Written by myLaw

Three lawyer sex scandals

Scandal has a way of focusing attention on a wider issue. When it involves sex, some essential human attribute concentrates our gaze even longer. What follows are three sex scandals that shook the legal profession and the world beyond. The high offices involved and the higher standards we expect of those who occupy them made the first two especially controversial. The third stirred a national debate on the dynamics of male-female relationships.

The Clarence Thomas nomination

The Senate hearings that followed the nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1990 were especially acrimonious. Several civil rights groups and women’s groups were critical of his conservative views, especially on the issue of abortion, and opposed George H.W. Bush’s nomination. Several times during the confirmation hearings, he asserted that he had not formulated a position on Roe v. Wade. Joseph Robinette “Joe” Biden, Jr., the current Vice-President of the United States, was the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee during the hearings.

Official portrait of Justice Clarence Thomas

Official portrait of Justice Clarence Thomas

Prior to his nomination, Mr. Thomas had spent eight years at the helm of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“the EEOC”). Before that, he had been Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

Anita Hill was an attorney who had worked under him at both these offices. When the acrimonious Senate hearings were drawing to a close, allegations emerged in the media about an F.B.I. report in which Ms. Hill had accused Mr. Thomas of making unwelcome sexual comments while the two of them had worked together.

Ms. Hill, like Justice Clarence Thomas, went to Yale Law School. She was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar in 1980. A year later, at the age of twenty-four, she became an attorney-adviser to Mr. Thomas at the Department of Education.

On October 11, 1991, Ms. Hill was called to testify during the hearing. During her testimony about the character and fitness of Mr. Thomas to serve on the Court, several colourful details emerged.

He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes… On several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess.

She narrated another incident that occurred after the two had moved to their jobs at the EEOC.

Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office, he got up from the table at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, ‘Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?’.

She also explained that she followed Mr. Thomas to the EEOC because “[t]he work, itself, was interesting, and at that time, it appeared that the sexual overtures… had ended.

Two other women, Angela Wright and Rose Jourdain, made statements to Senate staffers in support of Ms. Hill, but ultimately, after much political wrangling, they were dismissed by the Senate Judiciary Committee without testifying. Ms. Wright had alleged (but did not testify) that after she turned down Mr. Thomas for a date, he began to express discontent with her work and eventually fired her.

Clarence Thomas denied all the allegations made against him.

I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill, that I ever attempted to date her, that I ever had any personal sexual interest in her, or that I in any way ever harassed her.

He described the hearings as a kind of lynching, a circus, and a national disgrace. Among the several witnesses who testified on his behalf, was J.C. Alvarez, a woman who had been special assistant to Mr. Thomas for four years at the EEOC. According to Alvarez, Thomas would not tolerate “the slightest hint of impropriety, and everyone knew it.” She also cast doubt on Ms. Hill’s motives.

Women who have really been harassed would agree, if the allegations were true, you put as much distance as you can between yourself and that other person. What’s more, you don’t follow them to the next job – especially, if you are a black female, Yale Law School graduate. Let’s face it, out in the corporate sector, companies are fighting for women with those kind of credentials.

Not voting strictly along party lines, the Senate finally confirmed Mr. Thomas by a vote of 52 to 48. It was the narrowest margin for approval since the nineteenth century.

A year after the hearing, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saw a fifty per cent increase in sexual harassment filings. Today, Ms. Anita Hill is a professor of social policy, law, and women’s studies at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. She provides commentary on gender and race issues through her books and articles and on national television. Justice Clarence Thomas has completed twenty-one years on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Justice in chains

In 2009, when Lori Douglas was promoted to the position of Associate Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench (Family Division) in the Canadian prairie province of Manitoba, she became ex-officio, a member of the Canadian Judicial Council. The federal body is mandated to improve the quality of judicial service in the superior courts and to review complaints against superior court judges.

Since it was set up in 1971, the Council has made eight inquiries into the conduct of particular judges. Justice Douglas became the ninth. A review panel of five judges concluded in June 2011 that allegations surrounding her could be serious enough to remove her from the bench.

Alexander Chapman, a black computer specialist, filed the formal complaint against Justice Douglas in August 2010. Naked photographs of the judge were part of the complaint and they catapulted this story into newswires across the globe. He also filed a complaint with Manitoba’s Law Society against her husband, Jack King.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Winnipeg (1978) and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Manitoba (1982), Ms. Douglas was admitted to the Manitoba Bar in 1983. Just prior to her appointment as a judge in 2005, she had been a partner with the firm Thompson Dorfman Sweatman where she primarily practised family law as a partner. Her husband, the sixty-six-year-old Mr. King, was also a family lawyer at the same firm.

The complaints related to events that are alleged to have occurred in 2003. In 2002, Mr. Chapman hired Mr. King to handle his divorce. Apparently obsessed with inter-racial sex, Mr. King tried to entice Mr. Chapman to have sex with his wife, the future judge. He had even posted nude pictures of her on a pornographic website. Mr. Chapman alleged that over thirty weeks, Mr. King showed him about thirty sexually explicit photos of Ms. Douglas, showing her naked in various forms of bondage, in chains, with sex toys and performing oral sex. Later, both Mr. King and Ms. Douglas claimed that Ms. Douglas had no knowledge of this at that time.

Image above is from -Bert23-'s photostream on Flickr.

Image above is from -Bert23-‘s photostream on Flickr.

After his divorce proceedings were completed, Mr. Chapman complained to the law firm. Mr. King left the firm in 2005 and paid Mr. Chapman U.S.D. 25,000. As part of the settlement, Mr. Chapman agreed to surrender his copies of the “dirty pictures”. Complicating the situation manifold, Ms. Douglas was appointed to the bench in the same year.

In 2010, after he filed complaints with the Council and the Law Society, Mr. Chapman filed separate suits against Mr. King, Justice Douglas, and the firm, seeking U.S.D. 6.7 crore in damages. In these suits, he claimed that he came under severe emotional stress when Mr. King allegedly coaxed him to have sex with Ms. Douglas. A week later, Justice Douglas requested that she be temporarily relieved of her duties as a sitting justice. She continues to serve in an administrative capacity until the inquiry against her is completed. The Council now has to contend with the question of whether having naked pictures of her published on the Internet made her ineligible to be a judge. . 

A solicitor’s cuffs

Oxford-educated solicitor Angus Diggle was convicted of attempting to rape a twenty-five year old Scottish lawyer in 1993, prompting fierce public debate in England about ‘date rape’. Mr. Diggle was thirty-seven when the incident happened.

The Manchester-based solicitor had taken the woman to a Scottish dance in London. At his trial before an Old Bailey jury in 1993, the court was told that after an evening of dancing during which the couple had drunk a great deal, he went with the woman to her friend’s flat. The friend and her fiancé were sleeping in the only bedroom so they had to use the sitting room. The woman undressed with her back to him and got into a bed in the living room wearing her knickers while he lay down on the couch. Shortly afterwards, she woke up to find Mr. Diggle on top of her. The tabloid press had fun with some testimony of the fact that he was wearing only lace dress cuffs that had been detached from his Scottish shirt and a green condom. She fought him off and the police were called. At this point, Mr. Diggle reportedly told an officer: “I have been out with her. I have spent 200 pounds on her. Why can’t I do what I have done to her?” His defence in court was that he had mistakenly thought she had invited him to have sex.

Things did not get significantly better in Mr. Diggle’s life. After his conviction, it was revealed that he had previously been sacked from his job as a solicitor with the North-West Regional Health Authority for harassing a young woman on a train. In 1998, he was struck off the Solicitor’s Roll after behaving abusively with two police officers in the red-light area of Bolton during a Sunday afternoon drinking binge. After he had notched up nine convictions for being drunk and disorderly, involving incidents of public urination and racially motivated threats, police in Bolton requested a Magistrate for an Anti-social Behaviour Order in 2010. This was granted, and Mr. Diggle, at the age of fifty-four, was banned from entering all pubs in Bolton. In November 2011, a Bolton Magistrate’s Court convicted him of common assault.

 

(Aju John is part of the faculty at myLaw.net.)

Written by myLaw