Rape Suspect turns Spy

Introduction

The question of anonymity for men accused of rape (as well as for complainants) seems to be never far from the news nowadays. Whilst it is impossible to know the number of false complaints, it is generally acknowledged to be low. Proven false allegations of rape (or any offences) are rare, but tend to get a high level of publicity.

Facts of this case

An example is given by this story from Sheffield on the 5th October 2013. Stuart Berry married to Hannah Berry in 2010. By the next year, the relationship had deteriorated. It seems that the Judge who sentenced Ms Berry accepted that there may have been some abusive behaviour, presumably by Mr Berry. We don’t have the full details, so it is not right for us to comment on the truth of that.

The Court case was triggered after Ms Berry made an allegation of rape against her husband in 2011. As is usual, this was investigated and Mr Berry arrested and interviewed by the police (spending, as was reported, just over 24 hours in police custody).

As is also normal in these sorts of cases, Mr Berry was released on bail whilst further enquiries were made by the police. What followed was less usual – Mr Berry turned detective. He started by emailing her on Facebook and asking her why she was making a false accusation.

Helpfully (for him), she apologised and they arranged to meet. At this meeting, Mr Berry wore a ‘spy watch’ which recorded Ms Berry confessing to making a false accusation. Inevitably, the rape charges were dropped after this was disclosed to the police, and Ms Berry found herself being prosecuted for Perverting the Course of Justice.

It seems that Ms Berry pleaded not guilty and had a trial, at which she was convicted. Whilst that was her right, it is difficult to see what defence there could have been. The Judge sentenced her to 12 months in prison, but suspended for 12 months. This means that Ms Berry was free to go. Provided she stays out of trouble (and complies with any conditions that the Court imposed) then that will be the end of the matter.

Why was the sentence for the false accusation so different to that of rape?

This seems to have irked Mr Berry. So much so that he posted a video of the confession on YouTube along with speaking of “his ‘disgust’ at the likelihood of a suspended sentence on social media“. It is an interesting and difficult question whether Mr Berry broke any laws, either by illicitly recording Ms Berry, or by posting it on the internet. In any event, whatever the legality, the second was unwise (and may also have amounted to a Contempt of Court in what appears to have been an on-going case).

The sentences for false allegations are always lower than would be passed if the underlying rape allegation had gone to trial and the Defendant had been convicted. This often sparks various puzzlement and outrage as to why the sentences should not be the same.

One thing that should be addressed straight away is Mr Berrys’ comment that “If I’d been convicted I could have been sent to jail for up to eight years“. This is not correct. The maximum sentence for rape is life imprisonment. Whilst the exact details of the allegation is not clear, it would be likely that, under the sentencing guidelines, the starting point would be five years in prison.

The Courts have repeatedly made it clear (see here as an example) that false allegations of rape should almost always attract a custodial sentence. The guidance would appear that this should be in the range of 1-2 years (going up to 3 years if the circumstances require it). Generally, the further through the system the false allegation went, the more serious it will be taken.

On that basis, the sentence of 12 months is about right, perhaps on the low side, but not by much. From the news report there were complexities in the case that weren’t reported in the newspaper, and so the reasons that the Judge was able to suspend the sentence are not known.

The reasons why the sentences are lower for perverting are that the offence is inherently less serious. Also, the offence is the making of a false allegation and the seriousness of that (and it is undoubtedly serious) does not depend greatly on the nature of the allegation that is made – it is the ‘attack on the judicial system’ rather on the victim of the false allegation, that is the seriousness of the offence.

I appreciate that that may not be a view that is universally held – what do you think?

 

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About Dan Bunting

I'm a lawyer who works for myself. Legal geek, maths freak, general dullard and jack of all trades. Here’s a few views on law and occasional musings on life. Usual caveats about not relying on anything I say etc applies.

41 thoughts on “Rape Suspect turns Spy

  1. John Allman

    Whenever anybody says the a low conviction rate for rape means that many rapists are getting away with rape, I retort that, on the contrary, in the cumulative opinion of the relevant juries, this statistic means that too many men who are innocent of rape are still being wrongly prosecuted, so the police and the CPS need to get their act together better than they have managed to do so, so far. Fault my logic, if you can.

    I am sexually experienced. In my sixty years, including legal two marriages, and fathering five children, I must have had sexual intercourse – ooh – literally *dozens* of times at least, if not scores!. My two legal wives consented to have sex with me in formal legal proceedings, in a church and in a registry office respectively, for the precious little that that ceremonial promise of consortium is worth nowadays. I (would) never (have) bothered to ask any of my other sexual partners (if any there have been) to sign consent forms. It wouldn’t have seemed romantic. I wouldn’t have expected the words, “I hereby consent to sexual intercourse”, under caution. That would be/have been so pedantic, so unrealistic.

    The only woman who has ever accused me of raping her, is one who subsequently claimed to be in “love” with me, but with whom I did not have sexual intercourse, ever. Fortunately, none of my friends believed her false accusation. Fortunately she did not relate her rape fantasies to the police. Please God, she won’t “come forward” now, after all these years, leaving me to answer “historic” charges, like so so many others.

    Reply
  2. Andrew

    There should be a three-year limit on rape cases, and all other ex cases; to run from the sixteenth birthday if the complainant was under that age when the act is alleged to have occurred. And no exceptions. None. None at all. Never.

    Reply
  3. duncanheenan

    A false accusation of rape is an attempt to have a man falsely imprisoned for 5 years or more. If someone actually held someone prisoner for that length of time, and were caught, they would be imprisoned for longer than that, as depriving someone of their liberty is a serious offence and needs to be punished accordingly.
    In addition, a false accusation of rape, even if it does not get to court, can easily ruin a man’s life – and that is probably the motive in making the accusation. So two things should happen; firstly the law should be changed to give the accused anonymity until convicted, to help protect them from the consequences of false accusations; secondly false accusers should always be prosecuted for perverting the course of justice, as it is a serious offence with grave consequences, and needs to be discouraged.

    Reply
    1. John Allman

      False accusers are no friends of genuine victims either. The more false accusations there are, the more aware juries will be that false accusations are sometimes made, and hence the easier they will find it to have reasonable doubt, possibly leading to the acquittal of a rapist, and the unpleasant feelings the victim experiences, and a reduced likelihood that other victims will report rapes, or be willing to testify.

      Making false rape allegations is so harmful, in so many different ways, not least to real rape victims, that it should be discouraged, and always prosecuted, and punished severely, where there is sufficient evidence. This will also comfort rape complainants whose accused rapists are acquitted, but not because the jury didn’t think they were guilty, just because the jury weren’t sure they were guilty. There would be no stigma in crying rape but failing to see the suspect convicted per se, if the public knew that one wasn’t being prosecuted for making a false allegation, even though the police were often willing to bring such prosecutions.

      Reply
  4. Andrew

    Blackstone tells us that in early times a false witness who caused death by perjury was treated as a murderer.

    Not a bad idea. Of course that cannot apply to every acquittal for rape; but a woman who is shown to have made a deliberately false allegation should go down for a time comparable to what he would have served had he been convicted. And not suspended.

    I am reminded of a case in the divorce jurisdiction in which I acted for a man whose wife got an order ex parte giving her leave to omit her address from the petition. Her solicitors refused to provide a copy of the affidavit leading to that order – of course omitting the address – and I had to struggle with a Registrar, as we then called them, to get a copy. I kept on saying that every application made ex parte could be the subject of an application on notice to set it aside and in the end he reluctantly agreed. It was important to my client because an order like that carries an implication which he vehemently denied.

    The story (apart from raised voices and anger, which he said was a two-way process, and it probably was) was that a day or two after she left him he had seen her in the street, got talking to her, led her away to somewhere private – and savagely assaulted her. But my client was able to prove by stamps on his passport and ticket stubs and hotel bills and the like that he had not been in the country; in fact he had landed in New York at just about the time he was said to have met her!

    The order was in due course set aside (by which time she had put a Class F notice on the land register disclosing her new address, but that was probably her solicitors’ carelessness) and the ancillary claims were settled. But I thought then and think now that she lied with a view to getting more out of him; he was the sole owner of the (inherited) FMH and she had nothing of her own. And I also thought then and think now that her claims to ancillary relief should have been struck out lock, stock, and barrel, because she had abused the process and was not to be trusted. Anyone agree or disagree?

    Reply
  5. Sisterhooduk

    If men did not rape they would not and could not be any false allegations/accusations of rape. Further, not getting caught does not mean you did not rape it means you didn’t get caught, like most rapists don’t get caught, they are set free to rape on. Way to go fellas!

    And for those who ridicule the “consent form” as the preposterous solution to these “misunderstandings” aka (rape that is where a man puts his penis into a woman knowing full damn well she doesn’t want it there and isn’t consenting or that he has intimidated or coerced into it) why are you so dismissive about the idea surely a form is preferable to rape. Unless your afraid she won’t sign it, that means NO by the way. Further where a woman is consenting to sex with a man, form or not, she is not saying that he can do whatever he wants to her, no matter what his deluded ego wants to believe therefore even with a blasted consent form men can and will still continue to rape.

    Reply
  6. Andrew

    “If men did not rape there would not and could not be any false allegations/accusations of rape.”

    True but so what – some do and there are. In both cases, alas, there always have been and always will be. The only man responsible for a rape is the man who commits it; the only woman responsible for a false allegation is the one who makes it. It is true that much sexual crime goes unreported, undetected, unpunished or all three; so does much non-sexual crime – including murder, which as I have said before is more serious than rape.

    What do you think should have been the outcome of the case in which the woman claimed my client had committed a serious assault on her in London while he was landing in New York? “Give her his house, if he did not do it lots of other men do so that’s all right”?

    I would hate to go through life hating half my fellow adult humans, sisterhood, but that seems to be your problem.

    Reply
  7. @sisterhooduk

    yada yada yada when it comes to rape there are the practioners and there are theorists when. They all talk the same talk, some of them put it into practice the other lack the balls to but wished they did.

    I am not here to appease men. I am holding them to account for what they do does not make me a manhater. In my view men do a lot to be hated for an the case I have linked to demonstrates this. You will note the victim did not report that she had been raped to the police. They stumbled upon the evidence of it by accident/ That’s the fault of your fellow man take it up with them.

    Reply
    1. duncanheenan

      For someone who finds men so distasteful, I find it surprising that you choose to talk cobblers all the time, ‘Sisterhood’.
      Why do you hate all men so much, even ones you have never met? You should know that all generalisations are daft, apart from this one.

      Reply
      1. @sisterhooduk

        In your case, I specifically know why I hate you so much I don’t need to generalise at all. Happy to help.

  8. Andrew

    I will hold any man to account for what he has done. Or any woman for what she has done. But I will not be held to account for what another man has done. Or hold you to account for what another woman has done. I am not to blame for the actions of Ian Brady or Ian Sutcliffe or Neil Wilson; nor are you to blame for the actions of Rose West or the mother of Keanu Williams or that wretched woman in Bradford who starved her son. I would never do what the first group did; nor you what the second group did. Personal responsibility for personal wrongdoing is not rocket science and has formed part of the understanding of our species – both genders – since we evolved the human brain.

    Your belief that all men are rapists-by-wish is prejudiced rubbish; but what if it were true? This is not 1984 and we don’t punish people for thoughtcrime.

    Reply
    1. duncanheenan

      I agree with you Andrew (apart from the bit about Ian Sutcliffe, as I don’t think playing Cricket for Yorkshire and England is that bad a crime; mind you Peter Sutcliffe is a different matter).
      Your valiant attempt to get any form of logic or common sense across to ‘Sisterhood’ will fail as all others seem to in the matter of sexual politics, as she seems determined to remain stuck in the 1970’s feminist groove of ‘all men are rapists’. To hold on to hate so tenaciously is a sad thing, and she should be pitied as well as ignored.

      Reply
      1. @sisterhooduk

        I’m going to be pittied and more importantly ignored by a rude, boorish, pig, my day is getting better. You are just the sort…and that’s a fact.

  9. @sisterhooduk

    Goodness forbid that a woman express and opinon that a man disagrees with. The majority of rapes are committed by men . They target women but they also rape, other men, children and babies too. And while men may not like this fact, it is what it is, a fact. Three years and then “forget it” is uttter utter rubbish and a significant language of a misogynistic rape culture trying to find an out, excuse and a wriggle of the hook for rapists. Not a chance. Call me names, call me a man hater – so what it’s not a crime. Men need to sort out the behaviour of themselves and other men in any civilised society it cannot be right that it is dangerous to work down the street at night, cross to your car, leave a window open while you sleep. Some over here might point the finger at India, regarding gang rapes, we are no better UK women are no safer than their Indian sisters.

    Reply
  10. duncanheenan

    I agree with you regarding men who rape, but not all men rape.
    Your argument that if rape is committed primarily by men, therefore all men are rapists, is a classic formal fallacy by inferring the converse from the original statement.
    But don’t you bother your pretty little head about such stuff. Leave that to sensible people, some of whom are men, and some of whom are women.

    Reply
    1. @sisterhooduk

      I thought you were busy pitying and importantly ignoring me. Not working terribly well it seems to me.

      Reply
      1. @sisterhooduk

        Explain the difference Ducan what does the rapist looks like and what does the non rapist look like. Do tell.

      2. duncanheenan

        ” Explain the difference Ducan what does the rapist looks like and what does the non rapist look like. Do tell.”
        A rapist is someone who has committed a rape. A non rapist is someone who has not committed a rape. Of course you can not tell the difference from how they ‘look’, and asking to do so is a pointless piece of sarcasm which trivialised the whole business of establishing guilt. It is equally unhelpful to categorise a man as a rapist based on his sex alone. I do not think of all women as prostitutes just because they have the necessary equipment, and I resent the anonymous ‘Sisterhood’ and her like considering the ownership of a penis as a criminal offence.

  11. Andrew

    ” Men need to sort out the behaviour of themselves and other men in any civilised society it cannot be right that it is dangerous to work down the street at night, cross to your car, leave a window open while you sleep.”

    More precisely, those men who present a risk need to sort out their own behaviour. We are not a collective responsible for each others’ misdeeds. But talking sense to you is spitting – euphemism – into the wind.

    Reply
  12. Sisterhooduk

    Men listen to other men whereas a woman with an opinion about the evil that men do is a manhater (I can live with that), deluded and any number labels and techniques employed by men when they want to silence women. If rape were roundly condemned by men and stigmatised instead of excused (she was….) and the victims blamed that would go some measure to changing the mindset of other men. Yes you do have a responsibility. Sitting on the fence is to side with the rapist.

    Reply
  13. Sisterhooduk

    And for the avoidance of doubt, if the facts of this case, as set out above, are true, I do not condone what the complainant did. Defies belief and also an incompetent liar. It cannot be said to be the same as what the defendant e.g. Hesam Khosravi does in rape cases and should not attract a similar sentence the two crimes are just not comparable.

    Reply
  14. Andrew

    I have repeatedly and in all our arguments condemned rapists. I don’t sit on the fence about rapists. I have no time or excuses for them. Let them rot. And I don’t blame their victims.

    But nor do I assume that every accused man is guilty. (Nor should you.) If that’s sitting on the fence, I will live with the accusation.

    What do you think about women counsel who act for rape-defendants?

    Reply
    1. John Allman

      Women counsel who act for rape-defendants are obviously traitors to their own sex. Male counsel who prosecute those accused of rape are noble whistle-blowers on the under-publicised scandal, whereby all men, including they themselves, are rapists.

      Reply
      1. duncanheenan

        “Oh how witty the goof-natured banter between Duncan [and John Allman] and Sisterhood, to which we’ve all been treated these past few days!”
        – I see you too have been drawn in by ‘Sisterhood’s nonsense. It can happen easily can’t it?
        But like me, you are a man, therefore a rapist, so I guess it’s only what is to be expected.

  15. Andrew

    No John: male counsel who prosecute in rape cases are rapists trying to divert attention from themselves!

    Reply
    1. duncanheenan

      Not only ridiculous, but also unhelpful to the cause of real rape victims. The constant ‘cry wolf’ of the man-haters can lead to genuine rape cases being treated ‘with a pinch of salt’ by authorities which are constantly bombarded with non-evidence based propaganda.

      Reply
      1. @sisterhooduk

        Be silent women we don’t like what you say about us. God the ego of men.

    2. @sisterhooduk

      Go commit rape and then lay low for three years and it’s all over was your suggestion. That’s ridiculous Andrew as are you.

      Reply
  16. @sisterhooduk

    Ducan you are living up, down, to the typical behaviour of men everywhere. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
    1. duncanheenan

      You seem to read what you want to see, not what is written.
      You can only tell a rapist from a non rapist by the fact that the former have committed a rape; and that is established by policing and the judicial process. You asked how to tell the difference from what they looked like. It was a stupid question, which is why it is incapable of a proper answer.
      You seem not to interested in serious debate, merely venting your abusive hatred on anyone who has the timidity to answer back to your hate-filled megaphone one-way debate. So I’m going to stop trying for the moment as I have serious things to do.

      Reply
  17. @sisterhooduk

    Duncan you said “Learn the difference between rapists and men who do not rape anyone.” I asked you to tell me the difference so I could commit this lesson to memory. However you then have pointed out it’s not possible. It was your comment with it’s evident stupidty, nice try at being patronising tho, that was deserving of sarcasm. Just saying. Now go do what men do – it usually involves some combination of rape, abuse, violence and or murder there’s a love.

    Reply
  18. goggzilla

    False rape allegations run at 10-12% (FOI figures 2012 UK). We face many dilemmas. Firstly there is no transparent method of verifying deletion of innocent men’s DNA on the database (police mendacity legendary therefore no credence given). Second, no anonymity (breaches ECHR) and finally no punitive measures in law.

    Reply
  19. Pingback: Was the “Woman who made false rape allegation … fined £90″? | UK Criminal Law Blog

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