BRITISH Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke was forced to make a public declaration that he regards “all rape as a serious crime”, after he sparked a furore with comments suggesting he drew a distinction between “serious, proper rapes” and others.
Labour leader Ed Miliband demanded Mr Clarke’s sacking after a series of broadcast interviews in which the Justice Secretary defended controversial Government proposals to halve the sentences of some rapists if they made early guilty pleas.
Under pressure from 10 Downing Street, Mr Clarke was forced to return to TV studios to clarify his remarks.
While he did not apologise for his comments, the Justice Secretary insisted that he had not intended to cause offence.
He said: “Obviously, I don’t intend to give the impression and didn’t intend to choose words which gave the impression that all rape is not serious.
“Every rape is serious. That’s always been my view and that’s why I haven’t the faintest intention of changing the sentence for rape.”
Mr Clarke said he would look back at the transcripts of his interviews, adding: “Obviously it’s a mistake if I gave the impression I have any other views.”
The Ministry of Justice released a statement, in which Mr Clarke said: “My view has always been that all rape is a very serious crime, with appalling consequences for victims, and I certainly didn’t mean to give any other impression. Any rape deserves to be punished with the full force of the law.
“I and the Government are absolutely clear that we are not proposing — and never have proposed — to reduce the sentences available for rape, or any other crime.”
The row was sparked by an interview on BBC Radio Five Live, in which Mr Clarke angrily rejected reports new plea-bargain arrangements could result in sex attackers facing just 15 months behind bars.
Asked why rape sentences were on average only five years, he said: “That includes date rape, 17-year-olds having intercourse with 15-year-olds.
“A serious rape, with violence and an unwilling woman, the tariff is much longer than that. I don’t think many judges give five years for a forcible rape, frankly.”
Asked if he thought date rape did not count as a “serious” offence, he said: “Date rape can be as serious as the worst rapes but date rapes, in my very old experience of being in trials, they do vary extraordinarily one from another and in the end the judge has to decide on the circumstances.”
Put to him that “rape is rape”, he said: “No, it is not.”
In a later interview with Sky News, Mr Clarke described some offences as a “proper rape case”.
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