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Homework answers / question archive / submit a 2000 words paper on the topic The Law Prior to the Sexual Offences Act

submit a 2000 words paper on the topic The Law Prior to the Sexual Offences Act


submit a 2000 words paper on the topic The Law Prior to the Sexual Offences Act. The law relating to rape remained confusing since many different references to different legislative provisions had to be made in order to come to some understanding as to where the law stood on a particular element of the crime of rape. The law was viewed by many as containing inappropriate language and discriminatory in nature. Many of these difficulties related to the men's rea especially with regard to proving the absence of consent and the common law rule that a mistaken belief that the victim consented could prevail and defeat a claim of rape despite the unreasonableness of the belief.

Prior to the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act, 2003 victims had a difficult time proving that there was the absence of consent and the fact that the victims’ sexual history could be introduced through cross-examination did not help matters. The result was a low prosecution and conviction rate together with a low reporting rate. A study conducted shows that in 1977 out of every three reported rapes only one resulted in a conviction. By the year 2002 only one out of every twenty reported rapes ended up with a conviction.

The most obvious difficulty with the law in practice prior to the 2003 Act was the failure of the legislature to adequately provide a definition of the term rape in the Sexual Offences Act 1956.6 The legislature attempted to fill the black hole left by the 1956 Act and introduced the following definition by virtue of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1976:

‘For the purposes of section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 (which relates to rape) a man commits rape if -- (a) he has unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman who at the time of the intercourse does not consent to it. and (b) at that time he knows that she does not consent to the intercourse or he is reckless as to whether she consents to it. and references to rape in other enactments (including the following provisions of this Act) shall be construed accordingly.

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