Britain needs to sort out its own attitude towards rape before we get all nimby-ish about Leslie Cunliffe's deportation
We seem to have a terribly confused attitude to rape in this country. Britain has one of the lowest conviction rates of any European country (Only 6.5% of reported rapes end in a conviction on the charge of rape), leading some feminists to consider restorative justice (ie meeting your rapist and hearing him say "sorry" as an alternative to throwing him in clink) or "treatment" programmes rather than punishment. Then there is the impression, thanks to the extensive media coverage of such cases, that we are more concerned about women making "false allegations" of rape than of convicting actual rapists.
So it jars that such a fuss is made in certain quarters at the thought that an actual convicted rapist ? quite a rare breed ? is being deported from Australia to Britain. Leslie Cunliffe, who emigrated from Britain in 1967, kidnapped, gagged, blindfolded and bound his victim before strapping a fake bomb to her body and raping her in 1999. For this he spent 12 years in prison in Australia for the rape. Now he has lost an appeal against the Australian department of immigration decision that he should be deported and has been placed in a detention unit.
He is not the first such rapist to be deported from Australia and the UK immigration service also regularly deports rapists and other convicted criminals. Currently there is the kerfuffle about the radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada ? a man who, despite his grotesque views, has not been charged with a single crime in Britain ? because we have not deported him to a country that relies on evidence obtained through torture. People who have been granted refugee status and other foreign nationals are often stripped of their British citizenship after serving time in jail in this country. So why, exactly, is there such a fuss about a sex offender who has served his time, and is on the public's radar, coming back into the UK?
Research published in 2006 by the Crown Prosecution Service and Home Office Inspectorates estimates that between 75% and 95% of rapes are never reported. Of those that are, almost a third recorded by police as "no crime" should have been properly investigated as rape. Shockingly, less than 1% of men who rape are convicted of it, according to the same research.
Then there is the fact that legislation brought in eight years ago to curtail the inclusion of alleged previous sexual history evidence of the complainant in rape trials has largely failed. Research found both prosecution and defence share stereotypical assumptions about "appropriate" female behaviour; that tales of her "sluttish behaviour" is routinely allowed to be raised in front of a jury; and that the change in law had no discernible effect on the conviction rate for rape, which continued to fall after its implementation.
Britain ? and the rest of the world ? seem to operate on the basis that women who report rapes are lying; if they are not lying then it is not a "real rape" if she knew the accused; and that if a man is found guilty of rape it is not really his fault that he did it in the first place.
Nimbyism (the attitude of "not in my back yard") is pretty unpleasant, particularly when it applies to those who do harm to others. I don't want to impose a rapist on the women and children of any country ? I want them to be stopped from doing it again, and more importantly, from committing such acts in the first place. Britain has a terrible track record in dealing with rape, so the idea of us becoming irate about Australia sending Cunliffe back is risible: none of us should lose sleep over his return to the UK. There are thousands of rapists walking free in this country who may never come on to the radar.
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