A judge at the centre of a rape “victim-blaming” controversy has compared her comments to warning people about locking their doors to protect themselves from burglars.
In her last case before retiring earlier this year, Judge Lindsey Kushner angered campaigners and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Dame Vera Baird after suggesting that women’s “disinhibited behaviour” while drunk could put them at greater risk of being raped.
Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Tuesday, she agreed that the only person responsible for rape was the rapist, and insisted her intention was to “stop (women) getting raped in the first place”, after she likened her remarks to telling people to take precautions against thieves.
She said: “We don’t like burglars and they shouldn’t burgle.
“But we do lock our doors at night and anybody who leaves them open, they’re not protecting themselves and their belongings.”
Responding to Dame Vera’s “victim-blaming” criticism, she said: “First I wondered whether she’d been given the whole quote.
“But I didn’t worry about it too much, because I’m sure, whatever a judge says, there are people waiting to criticise what they’re saying.”
Judge Kushner’s sentencing remarks came as she jailed rapist Ricardo Rodrigues-Fortes-Gomes for six years at Manchester Crown Court for two counts of rape and begged girls and women to keep in mind that people who are “potential defendants to rape” target girls who have been drinking.
She said that while there was “absolutely no excuse” for sex attacks and women were entitled to “drink themselves into the ground”, such behaviour could make them “less likely to be believed” than a sober victim, in comments that were criticised for discouraging rape victims from coming forward.
Victim Megan Clark, 19, who waived her right to anonymity, came out in defence of Judge Kushner at the time, saying she took the comments positively and did not believe she was victim-blaming.
Appearing alongside the judge on the breakfast show, she said: “I know the fact that I was drunk did put me in more danger; not that that was my fault that anything happened, but the risk was higher because I was drunk.”
Asked whether she thought the judge’s comments might deter women who were drunk from reporting sexual assault for fear of being blamed, Clark said: “Maybe, but because that’s an attitude that a lot of people have, that the way you behave makes it your fault.
“That’s not to say that it was your fault, but that the risk is higher - you need to look after yourself.”
Judge Kushner also said she gave the 19-year-old rapist, who was 18 at the time, a lesser sentence because he was “fairly young”, and asked the “bemused” presenters: “Would you regard (18-year-olds) as fully formed? Actually, they’re not ... you take that into account.”
Clark said she would have liked a longer sentence and “refused help” because she thought she could deal with the difficulty of the trial.
The controversy comes weeks after Crown Prosecution Service head Alison Saunders condemned another judge for feeding into “victim-blaming” culture after he wrote in a newspaper that in most trials the alleged rapist was “unsurprisingly” acquitted because both people involved had been drinking or taking drugs.
She said: “It is always disappointing to hear views expressed that lean in favour of the ‘victim-blaming’ culture that allowed sexual predators to offend with assumed impunity in days gone by.”
The cases also follow the controversy surrounding the case of cricketer Mustafa Bashir, who earlier escaped a prison sentence for domestic violence, but was later jailed 18 months.
The judge in that case, Judge Richard Mansell QC was heavily criticised after he reportedly said Bashir’s victim,Fakhara Karim, was not vulnerable because she was a graduate who had a lot of friends.