Tag Archives: Yvette Russell

The Rape Trial and the Limits of Liberal Reform. And Why Legal Scholars need to do Theory Better

By Dr Yvette Russell, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).

Orestes Pursued by the Furies (1922-25) by John Singer Sargent

In recently published work I engage in a philosophical and psychoanalytic excavation of legal discourse on (and in) the rape trial.[1]  In this post I briefly summarise my key claims arguing, while I do, that legal scholars must diversify the theoretical tools they draw on in confronting issues of social justice.

Much feminist scholarship on rape asserts that the law has reached a best practice plateau and justice for victims is now being held back primarily by the aberrant ‘attitudes’ of criminal justice actors charged with implementing the law. Those attitudes, it is argued, militate against the best intentions of law makers charged with stemming burgeoning attrition rates. Attrition refers to the phenomena – not anomalous in the criminal justice system, but particularly marked in cases of sex crime – whereby alleged instances of sexual violence drop out of the criminal justice system.  This occurs at multiple points, the most notable of which is the first point where a victim makes the decision to report to police.  Continue reading

Criminal Law to the Rescue? ‘Wolf-Whistling’ as Hate Crime

By Dr Yvette Russell, Lecturer in Law (University of Bristol Law School).*

Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People

Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People

On July 13, 2016 Nottinghamshire police became the first force in the UK to recognise misogyny as a hate crime.  Hate crime is defined as ‘any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic’. In practical terms, this means that in Nottinghamshire police can record reported incidents such as wolf whistling, verbal abuse, taking photographs without consent, and using mobile phones to send unwanted messages with an additional ‘flag’ or qualifier on their incident log as hate crime.  It appears that the move is largely symbolic, as gender animus is not a relevant aggravating factor for the purposes of sentencing under relevant UK ‘hate crime’ legislation,[1] and does not create any new criminal offences.  However, the initiative has been supported by the force working in partnership with the Nottingham Women’s Centre and has involved the specialised training of officers to better identify and respond to the public harassment of women by men.

The announcement last week of the initiative was met with the predictable level of teeth gnashing and cries of ‘political correctness gone mad’ characteristic of any policy announcement addressed to countering gender inequality.  While the move may be largely bureaucratic, it does present an opportunity to look again at the spectre of criminalisation in our time and consider a related question: What is the role of the criminal law in regulating gender (in)equality, and what should it be? Continue reading