Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
In an article entitled False rape allegations finally getting some light, Kristina Hansen argues that “any woman that falsely accuses a man of rape should be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years behind bars with no time off for good behaviour”. The article examines the case of Rosie Dodd, who falsely accused three men of rape – receiving a jail term of two years. Ms Hansen states that: “After all, men who are falsely accused are offered no real justice or anonymity”, adding later: “The justice system is indeed broken”. The article concludes:
But no matter if it one false accusation, or a thousand. These false allegations are completely devastating to the men that are wrongfully accused. Their lives are permanently ruined once a woman cries rape, and even one innocent life destroyed is one too many.
Whilst being arrested and standing trial is surely traumatic for an innocent defendant, a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict delivers a vindication of their innocence. A man named Jason was falsely accused of rape, and is cited in the A Voice for Men article (by an incorrect link), who says:
It was devastating. I was getting harassed outside of work, harassed in work, it’s just terrifying.
This is a social issue, relating to how people who are going through the court process are treated, and not a legal issue, which is the court process itself. The treatment of people accused of crimes will not change by lengthening the jail sentence for false accusation of those crimes. The Ministry of Justice found that the average sentence for rape in 2011 was eight years and six months, meaning that Ms Hansen has proposed that false accusers sit in jail for longer than most rapists. This is the problem with just picking ‘big’ numbers, and not thinking it through.
Any justice system will be fallible, since humans are fallible. This means for any crime, there will be false accusations of that crime, incorrect imprisonments and perpetrators being found not guilty. There is a trade-off between imprisoning offenders and avoiding shutting away innocent people. The Criminal Prosecution Service found that in 17 months, there were 35 charges of false allegations of rape – or about 24 per year. This stands in stark contrast to 1,070 convictions of rape in a year. To say that “one innocent life destroyed is one too many” is to say that the author does not understand trade-offs.
Public trials and the dispensation of an observably unbiased legal process are fundamental. Granting anonymity to those on trial would shield the trial from public view. The lodestar of unbiased justice is also why perverting the course of justice is such a serious offense, carrying the harshest penalty: up to life imprisonment. The suggestion that false rape accusations, as distinguished from making false accusations of any other crime, should receive a specified minimum sentence is ludicrous.