Abusers who kill their partners will no longer be able to use the defence of ‘rough sex gone wrong’ under new legislation, a justice minister has said.
Alex Chalk told fellow MPs it is ‘unconscionable’ that perpetrators could use this to defend themselves in court just because their victims consented to ‘violent and harmful sexual activity’.
Speaking a Public Bill Committee he said the Government wants to make it ‘crystal clear’ that this loophole will be closed. The new Domestic Abuse Bill is set to become law in England and Wales later this year.
A change in the law outlawing the rough sex defence was being campaigned for by a number of MPs including Labour’s Harriet Harman and Conservative Mark Garnier. Shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding Jess Phillips suggested including a clause saying: ‘It is not a defence to a prosecution that [the alleged victim] consented to the infliction of injury or asphyxiation’.
She added: ‘The law should be clear to all – you cannot consent to serious injury or death, but the case law is not up to the task.’
Phillips argued a woman ‘can’t speak for herself’ after death, but that the man who kills her could ‘simply say she wanted it’.
However the proposed amendment was withdrawn after Chalk offered MPs reassurances that the Government was on the same page.
Expressing concern that the wording of the clause could leave ‘wiggle room’ for defence lawyers, he added: ‘The law of homicide is of labyrinthine complexity, so there is a need to ensure that any statutory provisions have the desired effect.’
He said the government’s stance would be set out by the report stage – the next part of the bill’s journey through Parliament before officially coming law.
The rough sex defence came into the spotlight following the death of Grace Millane in New Zealand. The British backpacker’s killer claimed she died accidentally during a BDSM sex game gone wrong.
Women and Equalities Minister Liz Truss has welcomed the Government’s commitment to outlawing the defence in the UK.
She added: ‘It was a disgrace that this was being used as a defence in criminal cases, cases of murder.
‘I pay tribute to members across the House who’ve run an effective campaign and I congratulate the Ministry of Justice for taking action on this issue.’
Currently someone who kills another person during sex could be charged with manslaughter. To be convicted of murder, prosecutors would have to prove there was an intention to kill that person or cause grievous bodily harm (GBH).
Campaigners We Can’t Consent To This called Chalk’s announcement a ‘genuinely big step forward’.
They added: ‘We should know within weeks what their proposals are and if they’ve gone far enough’
The group collated 60 examples of women who died during ‘sex games gone wrong’ in the UK, since 1972.
They say 45% of these cases ended in a ‘lesser charge of manslaughter’ and and therefore a shorter sentence. In some instances they claim the deaths were not investigated as a crime at all.
We Can’t Consent to This also pointed to 115 people who have had to attend court after being alleged to have consented to their violent injuries.