Tuesday, August 12, 2008


After Outrage, Sexism and Greed, an Outbreak of Sense in the Ministry of Justice

If you’ve ever thought complaining was no use, read the inspiring outcome to the case of a rape victim who was treated shockingly by the Ministry of Justice’s minions and refused to put up with it. Incredibly, she was told by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority that her £11,000 compensation would be slashed to £8,250… Because she’d been drinking before the attack took place. She mounted a legal challenge, and the authorities have now apologised, awarded her the full amount – and admitted the same disgusting approach in fourteen other cases. But why did it happen in the first place?

It doesn’t take a lot of sense to realise why this was an appalling practice by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. They were stating that alcohol was a contributory factor in rape – heavily reinforcing the still too-pervasive attitudes that women (or male rape victims) are somehow to blame for sexual violence, that a short skirt or a late night mean that ‘she was asking for it’. It’s quite possible that the people who drew up the regulations agreed with that ancient, sexist, blame-the-victim culture, and they certainly helped it along through either deliberate choice or shocking insensitivity. That the CICA and the Ministry of Justice shared those attitudes and have been exposed for it isn’t the only explanation for how they got into this situation, however.

It would be instructive to find out just how long this had been going on. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority has admitted that they cut the compensation awarded to fourteen other rape victims, but that’s only in the last year. Were these very old regulations, left over from more openly institutionally sexist times? Or were they part of the same Labour Government initiative that’s seen – for example – victims of miscarriages of justice having their compensation slashed because the kindly authorities gave them bed and board (and who wouldn’t want to pay through the nose for a five-star five-to-a-cell and luxury slopping-out bucket)? Or, perhaps, did some ‘over-zealous’ civil servant take the opportunity to follow the Labour Government’s bossy, puritan lead in punishing people if they don’t behave exactly as the Labour Government considers ‘healthily’ and ‘morally’?

Questions need to be asked about how this happened, but not just for the fourteen people they’ve admitted to ripping off in the last twelve months. What about all the people before then – how many of them were there? And how many other people, the victims of how many other crimes, under how many other spurious justifications, are the Labour Government cynically, greedily clawing back money from and kicking when they’re down?

The Ministry of Justice has stated this morning that it was not its policy to reduce the level of award to a victim of rape due to alcohol consumption. Not its policy – merely its practice. But how does that square, exactly, with a spokesperson for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority saying they’ll “ensure greater consistency in decision making”? Because it’s quite possible the reason that rape victims were heartlessly ripped off while being told they were to blame is entirely because that’s consistent with how CICA treats everyone else: using any excuse to get back every single penny. Clearly, they hate to give out money without making people jump through their own bossy behavioural hoops, and they hate to admit they’re ever to blame. Just like the rest of the Labour Government, in fact.

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Hey Alex,

Congratulations for being the only guy I can find so far to post on this topic today.

Will comment more later on, but I just wanted to say that you've helped restore some of my faith in the male of the blogger species

You're already tracking back to my posting on this, so I won't bother putting a link in!

Thanks very much, Jo, and thanks for your link (which pastes in automatically below)! Congratulations to you for being the only woman I’ve found who’s posted on this so far today, too. I’m afraid going by Lib Dem Blogs, we have exact gender balance…
I’ve spotted another blog post on the subject of rape which is well worth reading but, I must warn you, quite horrific.
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