Ken, rape sentences aren’t large enough to salami slicePosted on May 5, 2011
Ken Clarke could probably have got better publicity today by touring the TV and radio studios with a sack full of kittens and strangling them to death, one by one, whilst singing the soundtrack of Cats. A lot of attention has been focused on his sickening and frankly incomprehensible comments about the supposed difference between date rape and “serious, proper rape”.
Those comments are important and serious, but verbal idiocy should not divert attention away from the true problem here – these woeful proposals themselves. To my knowledge, no-one has done an opinion poll on whether sentences for rapists should be increased, but that’s because the answer the public would overwhelmingly give is “Yes”. Opinion testing on the subject would be a waste of money because the outcome is obvious.
Instead of realising that he was speeding, (allegedly) Chris Huhne-like, to disaster Ken Clarke seems to have just focused on process and ignore the outcomes. A Minister who is about to go public with a proposal to let convicted rapists out after 15 months should surely realise that however logical the process might be, the place it has led them to is utterly wrong.
Clarke’s rationale for considering these massive cuts in prison time is that offering a sentencing incentive to rapists will encourage them to plead guilty and thus reduce the trauma for victims. There’s a debate to be had about whether that will work, but in a situation where the standard tarriff for rape is a measly five years (English translation: 2.5 years) there simply isn’t any room to further reduce the sentence.
Until that is fixed, this should be off the table entirely – no tinkering around the edges could or should be done until the central problem of weak sentencing is fixed.
If Ken Clarke really wants to introduce a system where rapists get to barter about their prison time, then he can only do it – morally and politically – by starting from a higher sentencing base in the first place. Radically increase the basic sentence for rapists – something which the public and the media would support – and then start asking whether there should be a discount for confessing early on.