January 31, 2020

Cyprus Rape Case - Issues of Consent

A British teenager convicted of falsely accusing 12 Israelis of gang-rape was permitted to leave Cyprus after having received a suspended sentence.

The 19-year-old student had accused a number of Israeli football players of gang-rape.  Following her retraction, the alleged abusers were permitted to fly home.  The investigation into the claims was dropped, with the teenager being forced to spend a month in prison before being granted bail on the condition that she surrendered her passport.  The circumstances of the case include video footage having been taken during the alleged rape.

The case highlights the difficulties which bedevil evidential issues in rape cases and also, highlights the issue of consent.  The Israelis claimed this was consensual and as such, a significant conflict in the evidence arose.

There is a large contingent of supporters of the victim who say she was let down by the Cypriot justice system.  It is not for us to say who is right and who is wrong.

What is certain is that this case demonstrates how evidential issues and a weight of opposing evidence might well dissuade a victim from reporting the abuse.  The justice system demands the offence be proved “beyond reasonable doubt”, which is a high bar.  When the alleged crime occurred behind closed doors, which is commonly the case, it is very difficult to obtain a conviction.  The statistics in the UK as to how many rape cases are dropped before trial highlights this issue.

This case also raises the issue of consent.  It is right to note that the victim says she did not consent, whilst those accused say it was consensual.  It is also right to note that the circumstances, in our view, make this defence of consent highly questionable.  Consent is a very nuanced concept, a person may consent to some acts and not others.  Notably it is right to ask – did the victim consent to the video being taken?  If this was done without her knowledge, this alone is a valid complaint. 

In other podcasts we have noted that if someone consents to vaginal, anal or oral penetration only if they agree by choice to that penetration and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice. Consent to sexual activity may be given to one sort of sexual activity but not another, e.g.to vaginal but not anal sex or penetration with conditions, such as wearing a condom. Consent can be withdrawn at any time during sexual activity and each time the activity occurs. In investigating the suspect, it must be established what steps, if any, the suspect took to obtain the complainant’s consent and the prosecution must prove that the suspect did not have a reasonable belief that the complainant was consenting. This case brings that issue starkly into focus.

Today we will discuss this case, and these concepts generally.

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