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Thursday, November 29, 2007

About Bloody Time

Reforms aim to dispel rape myths and increase convictions

Clare Dyer, legal editor
Thursday November 29, 2007

Juries are to be told how rape victims typically respond in an attempt to dispel "rape myths" which ministers believe are contributing to plummeting conviction rates for the crime.

A panel of judges, doctors and academics will start work next month on the project, which will attempt to put together a package to inform the jury without interfering with the fairness of a trial.

The move is part of reforms announced yesterday by the solicitor general, Vera Baird, aimed at boosting a conviction rate which has dropped from 33% of reported rapes in 1977 to just 5.4% in 2005, rising slightly to 5.7% last year. A US study in 1989 found that myths affected the outcome of rape trials more than any evidence.

Jurors are expected to be told that victims may be slow to report the attack and that they may appear unemotional in the witness box, contrary to expectations.

"Juries sometimes find it difficult to understand why a rape has not been reported to police immediately when, in fact, it can take victims some time to decide to make a complaint," said Baird.

"Juries can think that she [the victim] will be upset and very emotionally raw when she relives the episode for the court when, in fact, post-traumatic stress makes people seem unemotional and almost matter-of-fact."

Ministers initially proposed allowing expert witnesses to give evidence to the jury on how rape victims behave. But that idea, which circuit judges described as a "minefield", has been shelved. The panel is expected to recommend an information booklet, a video or directions from the judge. A proposal for a statutory definition of "capacity to consent" - to deal with situations where a woman was so drunk it was questionable whether she had the power to say yes or no - has also been scrapped.

Baird said legislation was unnecessary since the court of appeal had set out in a case last March how juries should approach the issue when it quashed the conviction of Benjamin Bree, a 25-year-old software engineer found guilty of raping a 19-year-old student after a night of binge drinking.

The reforms include proposals to allow victims to substitute a videotaped interview with police for their initial evidence in court. Restrictions on the admissibility of "hearsay" evidence - occasions when the woman confided in friends or relatives - about the rape will also be removed.

Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society, welcomed the proposed changes but added: "These changes will not by themselves lead to a significant improvement in the conviction rate as most cases fail long before they get to court.

"Responses to allegations of rape need to improve across the whole criminal justice system and wholesale reform is needed to tackle the failures in the investigation and prosecution of rape cases."

Friday, November 23, 2007

China and the Lamas.

The Chinese government has brought in a law making it illegal to reincarnate without their permission. It's all because the Dalai Lama is now 72 and they want some control over the next one.

As well as imprisoning the Panchen Lama chosen by the current Dalai Lama, they have nominated their own Panchen Lama which could potentially lead to *two* Dalai Lamas being appointed on the current one's death - one officially sanctioned by the Chinese government, the other by the Tibetan and other Buddhists.

The current Dalai Lama has said that he will reincarnate, and that he won't reincarnate as a Tibetan, leaving the interesting position of the Chinese Government having to sanction a Tibetan person in the position.

Interesting stuff!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

TJ Hughes sends you a hug

with their faulty lighting, in Sheffield city centre tonight.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Anti-Glurge

(What is glurge? Glurge is best described as the cloyingly sentimental stories, testimonials and object lessons frequently sent as email or chain letters. Glurge can also be experienced at the end of religious services or motivational speeches, usually in the form of a 'true' example of perseverance against seemingly impossible odds. read more...




Emma's Story

Many years ago, a new family moved into our neighborhood, little six-year-old Emma and her mom and dad. They were a fine and upstanding Christian family. The first Christmas they were there, her parents bought Emma a fluffy white little bunny which she called Buster. Emma loved Buster with all her heart, and it brought such joy to me to watch Buster and Emma playing happily in their garden.

One day, Buster fell ill, and Emma and her parents carefully carried him to the car and drove off to the vet's. But on the way, a drunk driver drove through a red light and crashed into Emma's car. Her dad and the bunny died instantly, and Emma's mom died three days later in the hospital, never having come out of a coma.

Emma was alone in the world, a scared, sad little girl. Looking at her, I could hardly believe it was the same child who'd played with with such delight with Buster in their garden. I learned from the police that they couldn't find any other members of Emma's family, and that she was indeed alone in the world. Emma would in all likelihood go to an orphanage.

I prayed to Jesus to help me find a way to help little Emma. And He spoke to me deep in my heart and told me what to do. Jesus told her that my husband and I--who had not been blessed with a child of our own--must adopt her. He said it would be a hard road, I would have to fight for her, but that little Emma needed a new mommy and that I had been chosen. Suddenly, my spirit filled with His love and goodness, and weeping, I knew He was right.

On Christmas Eve, the final adoption approval was given, and Emma moved into our home.

Slowly, with help from the Lord, Emma came to love us as her own parents. Every night, I'd pray with her, thanking Jesus for His love and for all our blessings and our happy family. Once again, Emma became the contented little girl I'd known before tragedy had descended on her.

But then, one night as we were praying, she asked the question I'd been half-expecting, half-dreading. She looked up at me with her big, blue, innocent eyes, and said, "Mommy, if God loves us all, why does He let bad things happen? Why did He let my first mommy and daddy and Buster die?"

I smiled sadly and prayed silently for a moment to Jesus to help me find the words. But just as I was about to answer, Emma interrupted me.

"See, if God is omnipotent, then he cannot be omnibenevolent given that evil exists in the world. It's not logically consistent. And don't give me that crap about 'free will' because that's not compatible with God's omniscience, which must surely extend into the future."

Taken aback, I prayed silently again to Jesus to help me find the words. And He gave them to me. But before I could speak, Emma, seeming to read my mind, smiled softly and shook her head.

"And no, that garbage about 'God moves in mysterious ways' won't cut it either. Don't you think it's incredibly convenient that Christians have no problem giving credit to God for the good stuff, but anything bad that happens is just pushed into the too-hard basket? And you've got to admit, it's strangely self-serving to believe that the entire, majestic cosmos was made just to be wallpaper for a single species of primate on an insignificant planet on a spiral of a rather average galaxy, isn't it?"

As those questioning eyes gazed up at me, I realized she was right. And that night, I became an atheist. What a relief.

If you love cute, fluffy, white bunnies and little girls with big blue eyes, and really hate drunk drivers, please pass this email on. Jesus wants you to.