Judge accused of 'victim-blaming' over rape comments

image copyrightUPPA/Photoshot Photo UGL
image captionJudge Kushner, pictured here in 2000, said: "I don't think it's wrong for a judge to beg women to take actions to protect themselves"

A female judge's warning that drunk women are putting themselves at greater risk of rape was "victim-blaming", a police commissioner has said.

Judge Lindsey Kushner QC said women were entitled to "drink themselves into the ground" but their "disinhibited behaviour" could put them in danger.

The remarks would stop victims speaking out, Northumbria PCC Vera Baird said.

But the judge said she did not think it was wrong for a judge "to beg women to take actions to protect themselves".

Francis Fitzgibbon, Criminal Bar Association chairman, said it was "sensible" for women "to be educated to know there are predatory men out there".

Judge Kushner, 64, made the courtroom plea as she jailed a man for six years for raping an 18-year-old woman in Manchester last year.

The mother of two, who has sat as a senior circuit judge since 2002, acknowledged judges have been criticised for "putting more emphasis on what girls should and shouldn't do than on the act and the blame to be apportioned to rapists".

"There is absolutely no excuse and a woman can do with her body what she wants and a man will have to adjust his behaviour accordingly."

But she added "as a woman judge" it would "be remiss" if she did not plead with women to protect themselves from predatory men who ''gravitate'' towards drunken females.

'Terrible shame'

But former Labour MP Ms Baird told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "When somebody is raped they feel guilt and shame and they find it very hard to report it.

"If a judge has just said to them 'Well, if you drank you are more likely to get raped, we are not likely to believe you and you have been disinhibited so you've rather brought it on yourself' then that guilt is just going to get worse."

Ms Baird, a former solicitor general and ex-defence barrister, said the judge should have given advice to help women stay safe instead of implying "it's your fault for having attracted him in the first place".

"This looks like victim-blaming and they (organisations such as Rape Crisis) are worried that, yet again, it is going to become harder to get women to make reports," she said.

"That's a terrible shame."

One rape victim told the BBC the judge's comments were "100% victim-blaming".

The woman, who blogs under the name Maria Marcello, said: "It also seems to be an inherently selfish viewpoint - 'looking after yourself' isn't going to make a rapist stop raping, even if it keeps you safe for a night.

"Also in my case, I was practically as safe as I could have been - I was drunk, sure, but I was in my own house and had people I knew around."

image copyrightGMP
image captionJudge Kushner made the comments as she sentenced Ricardo Rodrigues-Fortes-Gomes for raping an 18-year-old woman

Yvonne Traynor, chief executive of Rape Crisis South East, said: "As a judge and a woman she should know better.

"The only person who is responsible for rape, is the rapist.

"Women are yet again being blamed for rape."

Rachel Krys, co-director of End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: "What this judge is saying is exactly the kind of thing that deters women from reporting assaults.

"Women understandably think that they will not be believed, or will be blamed for their own attack if they've had a drink."

But Mr Fitzgibbon, Criminal Bar Association chairman, said he didn't "see it in any way as being victim-blaming in this case".

"Of course, rape is a particularly horrible crime and it must be intensely difficult for anyone - man or woman - who has been raped to tell strangers about what's happened to them."

He added: "It's unusual for a judge to make comments like this I suppose because it was her last day in court the reins were off a bit… she obviously feels strongly that young drunk women are becoming rape victims and she wants to do something about it."

Analysis by Danny Shaw, BBC home affairs correspondent

Judge Kushner's plea to women to protect themselves was strongly - but carefully - worded: she was emphatically not blaming them for an attack but warning them that when drunk they're more vulnerable.

Other judges who've stepped into this tricky territory haven't always framed their remarks so delicately.

Judge Mary Jane Mowat's comment in 2014 that "the rape conviction statistics will not improve until women stop getting so drunk" was designed to highlight a point Judge Kushner also made - that victims are less likely to believed if they've had a lot of alcohol - but she made it sound as though women were responsible for rapists getting off.

But even more insensitive was the comment made by Mr Justice Leonard in 1987 when he declared that the trauma suffered by Ealing vicarage rape victim Jill Saward "had not been so great". He later apologised.

Judge Kushner jailed factory worker Ricardo Rodrigues-Fortes-Gomes, 19, for raping a woman he met in a Burger King in Manchester city centre last year.

Manchester Crown Court heard he ignored his 18-year-old victim's screams as he attacked her on a canal bank.

A witness heard the teenager, who had been drinking lager and vodka as well as inhaling the party drug amyl nitrite, begging Rodrigues-Fortes-Gomes to stop.

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