There are calls for Britain’s Justice Minister to be sacked after controversial comments he made on cases of rape.
Speaking on BBC radio on Wednesday morning, veteran politician Ken Clarke appeared to suggest that some instances of rape were more serious than others. By drawing a distinction between what he called “serious rapes” and “date rapes”, some members of the opposition claim he believes some rapes are not serious.
Clarke was on the radio to discuss proposals to increase the use of plea bargaining, which could pave the way for shorter sentences for people convicted of serious crimes, such as rape, if they plead guilty.
He said “Serious rape, I don’t think many judges give five years for a forcible rape — frankly, the tariff is longer than that. A serious rape with violence and an unwilling woman — the tariff is longer than that.”
When the interviewer interjected that “rape is rape”, Clarke replied “No it’s not. If an 18-year-old has sex with a 15-year-old and she’s perfectly willing, that is rape. Because she is under age, she can’t consent… What you and I are talking about is we are talking about a man forcibly having sex with a woman and she doesn’t want to – a serious crime.”
The opposition has seized on Clarke’s comments and has demanded that he be sacked. Opposition leader Ed Miliband told parliament:
“The role of the justice secretary is to speak for the nation on matters of justice and crime. This morning, the justice secretary was on the radio suggesting that there were serious rapes and other categories of rapes. The justice secretary cannot speak for the women of this country when he makes comments like that.”
Clarke has said that the controversy stems from political “spin” applied to his comments. He later told the BBC: “All rape is a serious crime and obviously I should not have used any form of words that gave the impression my view was different, because that has always been my opinion.”