Intimate relationships are just that…….intimate……..definition; closely personal generally of a sexual nature. It took a long time for the law and its various agencies to become involved when these relationships took a violent turn precisely because of the unique circumstances surrounding any accusations of violence associated with that relationship. A glance at Wikipedia offers this information.
Droit de seigneur, "the lord's right", often conflated with the Latin phrase "Jus primae noctis"), is a term now popularly used to describe an alleged legal right allowing the lord of an estate to take the virginity of his serfs` maiden daughters. Little or no historical evidence has been unearthed from the Middle Ages to support the idea that it ever actually existed.
Since it is accepted that history is written by the victors in any conquest it is not unlikely that all powerful newly ennobled French henchman of the Conqueror would seek to impose their authority in any form they wished. Be that as it may, rape always has been and to a certain extent probably will be a means of imposing male power over women in the most basic of ways. It is and has been used on a massive scale as an instrument of policy eg by the Russians in Berlin April/May 1945; Congo 2010. It is not an offence about which magistrates have any greater knowledge per se than any other lay people except that as for all offenders the accused rapist will face justice first of all in the magistrates` court. However at the lowest level of [usually] male violence against [usually] a female with whom there is or was an intimate relationship magistrates are well versed to comment. Although there is no such designated offence in law it is known as domestic violence or assault in a domestic context.
For decades the standard police response to accusations of assault perpetrated on a female by her male intimate partner/husband/boyfriend was referred to somewhat disparagingly as a “domestic” and unless resulting in serious injury the offender was rarely taken through the courts. However some four or five years ago the Metropolitan Police in a change of policy announced that even when a complainant withdrew her accusation all cases of suspected domestic assault would be pursued in the normal manner if the evidence were available. This resulted in vastly more offenders being convicted. It also resulted in increased difficulties for prosecutors and courts when complainants withdrew their original statements based on which charges had been laid. Sometimes these withdrawals are taking place on the day of trial. My post on November 11th detailed such a case. At such times emotions including fear, love and hate are such a fateful mix that justice is clearly seen not to have been done.
In the recent case of a mother of four at Mold Crown Court whose husband was accused of raping her, her subsequent statement of withdrawal, whether written or verbal did not prevent the CPS from continuing with the prosecution so she then retracted her accusation saying she had lied and that she had not been raped. As a result her husband who had originally pleaded guilty was discharged and she was jailed for perverting the course of justice. This is or was subject to appeal.
There are those with sharp axes to grind who offer spurious statistics regarding the failure of police and courts to offer justice to rape victims. However the case above described relates in microcosm to what is happening every week in many magistrates` courts throughout the country. When judges and J.P.s have to peep through the bedroom keyhole to deliver justice it is often not a pretty sight.
ADDENDUM 24th Nov 2010
In the above case in which a rape complainant was imprisoned for attempting to pervert the course of justice Lord Judge with two colleagues has ordered her release from jail and reduced her sentence to a two year supervision order with a community requirement. A report is available here.