‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ defence to be banned

18 June 2020

Justice Minister Alex Chalk this week told MPs in the House of Commons that the ‘rough sex gone wrong’ defence, also known as the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ defence, will be outlawed in new domestic abuse legislation.

Just two weeks ago, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to charge a man of assaulting a woman during a sexual encounter, as prosecutors feared he may claim she consented to the assaults.

According to the campaign group ‘We Can’t Consent To This‘, the ‘rough sex defence’ has been used to defend perpetrators accused of murder over 60 times in court in the UK since 1972. The group also says there are also 115 people – all but one of whom are women – that have had to attend court where it is claimed that they consented to some form of violent injury.

Reportedly, some 45% of these cases end in “a lesser charge of manslaughter, a lighter sentence or the death not being investigated as a crime at all.”

‘Unconscionable’ to justify murder

Mr Chalk said it was “unconscionable” that this defence could be used in court to justify or excuse the death of a woman “simply because she consented”. He stated:

“The reality is—I speak as someone who has defended as well as prosecuted—that the job of a defence advocate is to find whatever wiggle room there is in the law. Our job here is to close that down.

“As I have indicated, the prosecution would have to show also that this activity was either not consensual, or was consensual and also amounted to domestic abuse. Again, defence counsel will be seeking to ask, “Is this really domestic abuse in circumstances where it is consensual?”. You can immediately see the arguments that would be made in court. The key is for us to close that down and give practitioners—but, more importantly, people—absolute clarity about what is and what is not acceptable. As I said at the outset, we need to ensure that any change made is clear, and does not inadvertently create loopholes or uncertainties in the law.”

The bill for England and Wales, is expected to become law later this year.

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