Friday, January 02, 2009

Another Example Where Cleared Of Rape Charges Doesn't Mean Proven Innocent

From Bexhill Observer:

A LEARNING support teacher, who was accused of raping a vulnerable teenager, has been cleared.

A judge ordered a jury to find Mark Bridger, 45, of London Road, Bexhill, not guilty of two charges of rape and one of sexual assault. [...]

Mr Bridger was arrested on April 30, 2007 and denied he had any sexual contact with the teenager. He was accused of preying on the teenager and taking advantage of her because of her special needs. He said he invited her to his house and she had left after 10 minutes. [...]

Hove Crown Court heard he wrote to police three days after being arrested admitting he had sex with the girl and said she was willing. [...]

Judge Simon Tanzer discharged the jury at Hove Crown Court on the seventh day of Mr Bridger's trial. He told the jury that on the evidence which had been heard, they could not be sure the girl had not consented.

This order in no way exonerates the defendant. Anyone who views this discharge of the charges as proof of innocence doesn't understand "could not be sure" or doesn't want to understand it.

I believe this judge's confusion reflects on his attitudes about how rape happens or doesn't happen, not on the merit of the evidence presented. The defendant's switch from denial to "she consented" smacks of his realization that there was evidence to prove the girl's allegations about his actions beyond a reasonable doubt.

The only defense he had was to spin those undeniable actions into something the girl wanted or didn't fight off sufficiently to meet people's stereotypes about how real rape victims respond to rape attempts.

Too often people use a detail such as the alleged victim consenting to be at the alleged rapist's house as enough evidence to declare that no jury could be sure that the alleged victim did not consent.

This belief -- and acquittals based on this belief -- puts people in greater danger of being raped every time they go to someone else's house because the potential rapist has less fear of being rightfully accused, and rightfully convicted, of rape.

If basic ethics won't stop someone from committing rape, the law needs to be there as a serious consequence not as an outcome with odds worse for real rape victims than winning a multi-million dollar lottery jackpot.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 8:26 AM   3 comments links to this post


At January 02, 2009 1:42 PM, Blogger Atare said...

I love how to the public, any change in a victim's testimony would indicate that she's "crying rape," (no mercy for being confused when someone you trusted rapes you, of course) while here it's just looked over. Christ, talk about ridiculous double standards. Even disregarding that, it's pretty obvious who in this situation has more incentive to lie. And what kinda sicko does it take to think a special needs girl would maliciously accuse someone of rape? Like, wow, talk about only hearing one side of the story. :/

I thought the whole teacher/teen power differential meant consensual sex is impossible under the law anyway? Whole abuse of power thinger?

At January 02, 2009 2:36 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

The UK's 2003 Sexual Offences Act specifically states that if an adult over the age of 18 is placed in a position of trust over a child or children who are all under the age of 18 and these children suffer from any form of mental illness (this would include special needs). Then said adult commits a sexual offence if he engages in sexual activity with the child.

Since in this case male special needs teacher knew the young woman was both under the age of 18 and was also presumed by law incapable of consenting due to her special needs mental condition, then this teacher did commit rape upon this young woman. The Sexual Offences Act, 2003 Section 18 and also Section 21 with subsections 1-5 clearly delineates what is defined by 'abuse of trust.'

Why the judge claimed it was impossible to define whether or not the young woman had 'consented' is irrelevant given the Sexual Offences Act, 2003 specifically states adults who abuse their position of trust by sexually exploiting children who have mental issues means 'consent' is not the issue. Rather the issue is whether or not this male special needs teacher deliberately abused his position of trust by sexually exploiting a disadvantaged young woman who was under the age of 18 at the time alleged rape occurred.

Section 18 was designed to protect disdvantaged children from sexual predators who abuse their positions of trust and this includes teachers and any adult who holds a position of both power and trust over the child. It also covers adults who work with disadvantaged children within resiential homes, NHS hospitals or schools.

Given this male teacher changed his plea from one of denial to admitting he had engaged in sexual penetration of the young women then in my view he has clearly abused his position of trust. The judge should have informed the jury concerning Sections 18 and 21 of the Sexual Offences Act, 2003. But even with this legislation in place it shows implementation of said legislation is far from routine when so many choose to ignore it.

Instead once again the focus is on whether or not young woman 'consented' and once again evidence of alleged rapist apparently outweighs evidence of alleged rape survivor. Simply by going to home of male alleged rapist supposedly means the young woman automatically consents to whatever sexual activity the alleged male rapist wants to engage in. Such a perspective is, of course, male-centered and male-defined with of course dominant rape myths intertwined. No 'respectable' young woman would enter an adult male's home unless she was seeking sexual penetration by the male. Such is the mindset of many males (including judges) and it is this mindsight which is so hard to dislodge or challenge.

At January 10, 2009 4:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Jennifer is correct about the 2003 Sexual Offences Act (and I'm not saying your not, it certainly sounds like a sensible law) and the fact that the judge has ordered the jury to find the accused not guilty, could the judge not be accused of perverting the course of justice?

If the law is as clear as suggested and the accused has made a written confession to having had sex with an under age special needs person that was in his trust, I don't see how there is any room for "interpretation".

It's things like this that make a mockery of our legal system and allows uncivilised people to remain at large.

Speaking hypothetically, if the same situation arose and the accused went on to rape again, which they usually do, would the second victim then have the right to sue the first judge for failing in his duty to protect?!? This is of course just my personal opinion.


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