R v BREE

The premise of statutory rape relies upon the principles of informed consent, and such legalities further rely upon the effects of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 when establishing guilt.

On this occasion, the defendant contended that the act of sex between himself and the complainant began and ended with reasoned determination, and not forcible violation.

When a group of university undergraduates chose to have a night out, they did so in the knowledge that drinking to excess brings consequences that while not unexpected, can lead to actions which in the aftermath of intoxication, give rise to shame and regret.

After drinking a voluminous amount of alcohol and liquid stimulant, the complainant paired off with the defendant, before both of them returned to her lodgings; whereupon, the complainant began vomiting.

Having cleaned her up and placed her in her bed, the defendant sat with her, before the two began physically enjoying each other (albeit through physical cues and minimal dialogue).

Having discussed the availability of contraception, they proceeded to engage in intercourse; again, with the defendant relying upon visual and audible cues as to the complainant’s consent.

For preventative reasons, the act of intercourse ceased, before the defendant left the property, after having asked if the complainant wished him to stay the night.

It was shortly afterwards that the complainant contacted friends and family while intoxicated, to explain her distress at what had occurred.

Citing statutory rape, the case was brought before the Crown Court, where the jury were asked to consider the ramifications of section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, which outlined in instances where rape under section 1 of the Act has been claimed:

“[A] person consents if he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.”

Sexual Offences Act 2003

It was this distinction, that when held against the facts of the case, was of primary importance to the minds of the jury when determining guilt; and so, as the finer points of the complainant’s statement were examined, it became apparent that despite being heavily intoxicated prior to her vomiting, her state was such that she was aware enough to know that she, and the defendant, were engaging in sex; and that at no point did she express her unwillingness to have unprotected sex prior to the defendant withdrawing from the act before ejaculation could occur.

In the first hearing, the jury found the defendant guilty of statutory rape; yet upon appeal, the Court examined the subtleties of the judges direction, and noted that inadequate emphasis had been placed upon the complaint’s conscious acquiescence in lieu of the defendant’s persistence.

These differences persuaded the verdict rather than apportioning responsibility on both parties as consenting adults; and so, in light of these oversights, and in addition to a number of secondary mitigating factors, it was then agreed that for those reasons the conviction was to be quashed, while the court reminded the parties that:

“[F]or the purposes of the 2003 Act “capacity” is integral to the concept of “choice”, and therefore to “consent”