Peter Bacon, from Kent, was acquitted of rape this week. The 26-year-old chef was charged with rape after a sexual encounter with a 45-year-old lawyer who was heavily intoxicated and blacked out. She woke up with Bacon in her bed, not knowing what had happened. The most thorough report of his version of events (the only version offered, as she could not recall it) that I’ve been able to find has been in The Times, three days ago.
Mr Bacon had visited the woman’s home after a friend invited him. He said he had met the woman twice before and she had been drunk both times. That evening, the trio consumed around five bottles of wine before Mr Bacon and the woman found themselves alone.
Mr Bacon, who denied rape, said: “We were talking and her head was close to mine. She smiled and said, ‘You’re quite young, aren’t you?’. I thought she was giving me the come-on.
“Then, when we started kissing, she did not say no. There was never any indication of her saying, ‘What are you doing?’. She had plenty of time to say, ‘Oi!’.”
Kerry Malin, for the prosecution, told the court that the woman, who cannot be named, was so drunk that she could not remember Mr Bacon arriving. The next morning, she had shouted: “It’s because of b******s like you that the law has been changed,” referring to a 2007 Court of Appeal ruling that someone who is drunk may not be capable of giving consent.
(NB. ‘Oi!’ in british slang translates as something like ‘hey, what’s going on!?’)
Bacon apparently went directly from the woman’s home to the local police station to give a statement. The woman’s blood alcohol was tested that morning and found to be over twice the legal drink-drive limit.
Over at Talking Philosophy, there’s an interesting discussion underway regarding how to characterise events like this where both the (alleged) victim and the (alleged) attacker are intoxicated (as seems to have been the case here). Obviously you can see from the Times excerpt that–big surprise–much is being made of the fact that the woman was heavily intoxicated, and known to be often heavily intoxicated. ie., she was a binge drinker and brought it upon herself. The Daily Mail even reports that she described herself as a “social binge drinker”, as if this is relevant. Shockingly (not), no mention is made of Bacon’s usual drinking habits. But I must admit that I’m actually not clear on how to understand this. In the Talking Philosophy discussion, several people are asking questions on the order of “if she’s not responsible for saying ‘yes’ because she was drunk, why is he responsible for believing the ‘yes’ while drunk?”, and more to the point, “if her drunkenness invalidates her consent, then why does it not his as well? Why is he an attacker where she is a victim?” These don’t strike me as easily-answered questions. Nor does the question of what drunken (but apparently clear and unequivocal) consent amounts to. The woman’s evidence in her defence was, in part, that she is “fussy about the men I date. I’m quite a snob.” Ergo she could not nor would not have consented to intercourse with this man. In my home town, it would be called “beer goggles”: finding someone more attractive under the influence of alcohol than you would in the sober light of day. Is beer-goggle-induced consent consent? Does what she “wants” when drunk count as what she wants? Or does the fact that she has said ‘yes’ to someone who she would soberly not have done only show that she was unable to properly consent?
On a slightly related note, Barbara Ellen of the Observer implores us to drop the term ‘date rape’:
‘After all, what other serious crimes are trivialised in such a way? Anyone ever heard of “date murder”, “date fraud”, “date theft”?’
What do you think? (Thanks, Rob, for the link.)