5/30/2006

McDowell proposes changes to rape law

It appears that Justice Minister Michael McDowell has plans to introduce new changes to the law of rape in response to the recent Supreme Court ruling. According to reports McDowell is planning to set the age of consent at 16 for both girls and boys. At present, the age of consent for girls is 17, while it is just 15 for boys.



I see this as a sensible and overdue change as the old situtation did seem quite unjust given the fact that a 16 year old boy could be charged for having consentual sex with his 16 year old girlfriend, for example.

McDowell is also proposing to include a clause saying that a person who has sex with someone aged between 14 and 16 is not automatically committing a crime if he or she is less than two years older than the underage person. However, a defendant will not be able to claim consent if the person with whom they have sex is under the age of 14.

On the whole these seem like quite sensible and reasonable reforms. I do think that there is still an underlying problem that could be challenged again in the Supreme Court. Under these new reforms if an 18 year old fella has sex with a girl aged 15, who he had reason to believe was 16 he is still commiting a crime to which the defence of mistake is not an option.

This was the underlying problem in the first place and the reason why the Supreme Court acted in the way it did. All McDowell has to do is to include a defense of honest and reasonable mistake in order to avoid this senario.

It would be prudent that this is rectified ASAP so that situtations like this do not debase our legal system and society any further.

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