Stuart Waiton: Civil court rape cases don’t offer anyone real justice

NOT very long ago it would be liberals and those on the left who would see it as reactionary to refuse to allow someone who had been punished to get on with their lives. Today we find the crime author Val McDermid using her financial muscle and cultural clout to outlaw David Goodwillie for an act he has already been punished for.

Again, not long ago, if we saw the political power of the head of a government being used to further punish a past wrong-doer, we would expect to be looking at an authoritarian society that lacked basic liberal and legal principles. Today we find First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is being cheered on for her attempt to destroy Goodwillie’s working life.

Some will argue the problem is that Goodwillie has never fully faced justice. After all, he was not tried in a criminal court but rather, had his case heard in a civil court.

READ MORE: Men face being branded as guilty

This is a genuine problem, but this is not a problem created by Goodwillie but by the political class and the justice system itself that has promoted and funded the use of civil courts to deal with rape cases.

Some legal “experts” will tell us that the use of civil courts to deal with rape is entirely legitimate. Why then was Goodwillie’s case the first that can be identified since 1924?

The reason is that with rape cases being difficult to prove there has been a variety of attempts made to punish accused men by by-passing the conventional legal procedures and practices we would expect in a civilised society.

Civil courts have no jury. Finding of fault is achieved not via the high benchmark of “beyond reasonable doubt” but on the much lower “balance of probabilities” that an act was committed. This is adjudicated by a lone judge.

Most people, I suspect, think that branding a person a rapist on such a low benchmark is wrong. I would agree, not only because it brands the man a rapist and potentially ruins his life, but also because it allows a rapist to walk out a free man.

At both levels this is totally unsatisfactory and does not feel like justice for anyone.

Again, those who justify this use of civil courts argue about technicalities and about the right of one individual to use the law against another. But this is not what is happening, and the number of cases of this kind are growing. As I write, five women are preparing to sue their alleged rapists in the civil courts.

READ MORE: Jury trials under threat

The reason they are growing is because state sponsored groups, charities and organisations have been given extra funding to facilitate these actions. Consequently, the idea that these are merely privately funded and personal disputes is simply not true.

Furthermore, the justice system is being pushed by politicians and indeed by senior figures in the system itself to ensure more convictions or actions.

Drawing on feminist arguments about the patriarchy, the Scottish state has adopted an ideology that portrays all men as powerful and potentially abusive and all women as oppressed and potential victims of men.

A Misogyny Working Group is already in place, looking at making sexism a crime and the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain is arguing the case for abolishing jury courts in rape cases.

What we have here is a state sponsored, ideological, political, and financial assault on justice as we previously understood it. Pressure is now being brought to bear on lone judges to #believe and to brand more and more men as rapists without the use of criminal law.

Will these men also be hounded out of their workplaces and made into outlaws by our illiberal and vengeful elites? Only time will tell.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.

Previous ArticleNext Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *