Ken Clarke clarifies 'serious rape' remarks

 

Ken Clarke has spent the day at the centre of a media storm, after remarks he made about rape on Radio 5 live caused controversy.

Related Stories

Ken Clarke has declined to apologise after he appeared to suggest that some rapes were less serious than others.

It followed a BBC interview about sentencing proposals in which he referred to "serious rape".

The justice secretary later returned to TV studios to stress that "all rape is a serious crime" and that he had used the "wrong choice of words".

Labour leader Ed Miliband had said he should quit for effectively suggesting there were "other categories of rape".

The row began on Wednesday morning with remarks Mr Clarke gave in an interview with BBC Radio 5 live about proposals under consultation to halve jail terms for people who plead guilty early, including rapists.

Start Quote

Ken Clarke was defending his plans to cut in half the sentences of criminals who plead guilty long before they get to court ”

End Quote Nick Robinson

Mr Clarke has not apologised for his remarks in general, but he has written to a victim of attempted rape, who also featured on the show, saying: "I have always believed that all rape is extremely serious, and must be treated as such.

"I am sorry if my comments gave you any other impression or upset you."

'Proper punishment'

At present, a defendant entering an early guilty plea can earn up to a third off their sentence. But proposals to halve sentences are outlined in a Green Paper on sentencing in England and Wales.

In an interview with Victoria Derbyshire on BBC Radio 5 live, Mr Clarke argued that pushing for an early guilty plea would stop rapists denying charges and would relieve the victim of "going through the whole ordeal again and of being called a liar" in court.

He dismissed suggestions rapists could be out in 15 months - calculated by halving the average sentence of five years, then allowing for the time someone would be allowed to serve on licence - as "total nonsense".

On being told that the five-year figure came from the Council of Circuit Judges, Mr Clarke 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 longer than that."

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke watched Ed Miliband call for his resignation during PMQs while he was on the set of the Daily Politics, but suddenly left

When BBC interviewer Victoria Derbyshire interrupted to say "Rape is rape, with respect", Mr Clarke replied: "No it's not, if an 18-year-old has sex with a 15-year-old and she's perfectly willing, that is rape. Because she is under age, she can't consent... What you and I are talking about is we are talking about a man forcibly having sex with a woman and she doesn't want to - a serious crime."

He also said date rapes were included in the figures adding: "Date rape can be as serious as the worst rapes but date rapes... in my very old experience of being in trials [from his time as a practising lawyer]... they do vary extraordinarily one from another, and in the end the judge has to decide on the circumstances."

He later admitted he had confused "date rape" with sex with a willing but underage girl.

'Real disgrace'

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said Mr Clarke had, in any case, not been correct to suggest consensual sex with a 15-year-old would be rape - under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 children under 13 are presumed to be incapable of giving their consent to sex. Sex with a 15-year-old would amount to another sexual offence which carries a lower penalty.

Ken Clarke questioned by Radio 5 live's Victoria Derbyshire

In a separate interview with Sky News, Mr Clarke denied he was cutting sentences. He said the proposal applied to every single criminal offence, adding: "Rape has been singled out as an example mainly to add a bit of sexual excitement to the headlines."

At Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Miliband said Mr Clarke's comments had implied there were "serious rapes and other categories of rape" adding: "The justice secretary can't speak for the women of this country when he makes comments like that."

David Cameron told MPs rape was "one of the most serious crimes that there is and it should be met with proper punishment" and the "real disgrace" was that only 6% of reported rape cases ended in a conviction.

He said there was already a plea bargaining system in the UK and the government was only consulting on whether to extend it - and had not yet decided what crimes it should include.

The prime minister said he had not heard the interview but Mr Miliband told him to go back and listen to it, adding: "The justice secretary should not be in his post at the end of today."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Mr Clarke "has to go if he stands by these comments because they are absolutely appalling".

Rape sentence comments: no apology from Ken Clarke

In later interviews Mr Clarke said the "most extraordinary spin" had been put on his comments and he had been responding to average sentence figures that were put to him.

But he told BBC political editor Nick Robinson: "My view is all rape is a serious crime and if I have given the impression that is not my view then that is wrong, a wrong choice of words."

Asked if he had been ordered to apologise following the row, Mr Clarke said he had not - and he had not apologised: "I apologise if an impression has been given which is not my view and which I don't think I stated."

He added: "Nobody has had to tell me anything - I have always believed from the days I was a young lawyer that rape is a very serious crime - all rape."

The prime minister's spokesman said it was "clearly regrettable" if anybody had been offended by Mr Clarke's comments but said the PM had confidence in him.

He added there had been some misconceptions about what has been said, but added: "The prime minister has not spent the day watching Ken Clarke interviews."

He said both Mr Cameron and Mr Clarke had thought it important he "went out and clarified the position".

 

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

Be the first to comment

More UK Politics stories

RSS

Politics Live

  1.  
    09:29: Hammond in Warsaw
    Hammond

    Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is in Warsaw for talks with his Polish counterpart Grzegorz Schetyna

     
  2.  
    09:25: Farage "a very naughty boy"

    Nigel Farage is having a fun over on LBC.

    When one caller said she felt Mr Farage had been sent from on high to protect us, presenter Nick Ferrari asked Mr Farage if he had, in fact, been sent by God. The UKIP leader modestly responded: "I am not the Messiah, I'm a very naughty boy" - a reference, of course, to the famous Monty Python sketch,

     
  3.  
    @JamesTapsfield James Tapsfield, Press Association reporter

    tweets: Ukip immig policy premised on leaving EU - but wd take two years+ of negs after "out" referendum vote. Unclear what wd happen in interim

     
  4.  
    09:20: UK 'no longer a "serious player'
    Nigel Farage

    Nigel Farage is voicing strong support for increasing the UK defence budget on his LIBC show.

    He says it is "absolutely astonishing" that a Conservative-led government has upped the foreign aid budget but cut the defence budget.

    He added: "Internationally we are no longer being referred to as a serious player."

     
  5.  
    09:16: Farage "turning the other cheek"

    Nigel Farage comes out fighting against Nick Clegg over on LBC.

    Responding to the Lib Dem leader saying Mr Farage was "having a nice time of it", the UKIP leader said he didn't want to trade insults, adding: "I'm trying to turn the other cheek."

    But he went on: "when it comes to inconsistency on policy the Lib Dems are absolutely at the top of the tree."

    Mr Farage said this election campaign was becoming one of the nastiest he had ever seen but he would do his best to rise above it.

     
  6.  
    09:09: Farage: Cameron afraid to debate immigration

    Nigel Farage is talking immigration with Nick Ferrari on LBC.

    He asks: "I'm reading Tory literature talking about controlling immigration - but how can you control immigration if you have an open door policy?"

    The UKIP leader went on to say this is the issue Mr Cameron is afraid to debate.

     
  7.  
    @Nigel_Farage Nigel Farage, UKIP leader

    tweets: #PhoneFarage: Mr Cameron doesn't want to face the questions about how he's doubled the national debt in just 5 years

    Nigel Farage
     
  8.  
    09:00: Jim Murphy on polls
    Jim Murphy

    Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has been speaking to BBC Scotland about his party's polling performance, which suggests they could lose almost all of their seats north of the border. He told Good Morning Scotland: "There's still a long way to go. In voting for an SNP MP, people will get a Tory government." More on his interview on our Scotland Live page.

     
  9.  
    08:58: Preventing extremism BBC Radio 4 Today

    Has the government's Prevent scheme - a key element of its counter-terrorism strategy- failed? Frank Gardner, our security correspondent, says it has worked in some cases, where people have been steered away from extremism at the last minute. But in other cases it has been counter-productive. The scheme has a problem of perception - it is seen by many Muslims as unfairly focussing on their communities, he adds.

    Our correspondent spoke to experts about the scheme. We'll post a link later.

     
  10.  
    08:53: Putin's "undeclared war" on Ukraine BBC Radio 4 Today
    José Manuel Barroso

    José Manuel Barroso says Europe must not accept Russia seeking to redraw the borders of Europe.

    He told Today: "Putin is saying he respects the sovereignty of Ukraine. But at the same time we know this is the biggest Russian operation since the Second World War in military terms. It's a kind of undeclared war."

    The former President of the European Commission went on to say that he expects the situation to get worse before it gets better.

     
  11.  
    08:47: 'Parliamentary no-man's land' The Daily Telegraph

    Fraser Nelson says the Tories need to be more ambitious if they are to win an overall majority.

    Writing in today's Telegraph, he says: "On its own, 'long-term economic plan' just won't be enough. It will lead not to victory, but to a parliamentary no-man's land."

     
  12.  
    08:44: Sturgeon on Trident The Guardian

    Is Trident a red line for the SNP? In another video posted by the Guardian, Nicola Sturgeon suggests her party could still back a Labour government if it backs renewal of the weapons. But the SNP leader rules out her party voting for it.

     
  13.  
    08:36: Davey: Tories "crazy" for fracking The Daily Telegraph
    Ed Davey MP

    The Telegraph is reporting Ed Davey's criticism of the faith some Conservatives have in fracking.

    The Lib Dem Energy Secretary said parts of the Conservative Party are "crazy" because they want to "frack every bit of croquet lawn" in Britain.

     
  14.  
    @DPJHodges Dan Hodges, political commentator

    tweets: Someone needs to explain to me how telling Scottish voters "vote SNP and we disenfranchise you" helps make the case for the Union.

     
  15.  
    08:29: Sturgeon on domestic chores
    Strugeon

    Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, has been a vocal advocate of women's rights since taking over from Alex Salmond. It might come as a surprise to some, therefore, that she still irons her husband's shirts. She made the revelation in a video interview with the Guardian. Her husband is SNP chief executive Peter Murrell.

    As part of a series of videos, the SNP leader also said she couldn't rule out another independence referendum.

     
  16.  
    08:23: Green conference Eleanor Garnier Political correspondent

    Our correspondent says the Green Party has seen a huge surge in membership over the last year and even had to change venue to fit in all the activists it expects to turn up.

    But leader Natalie Bennett is under some pressure after a poor interview performance last month and our reporter says Ms Bennett "really does need to bounce back."

    There is unprecedented opportunity at this conference, but also unprecedented scrutiny, she concludes.

     
  17.  
    08:19: UKIP 'will reduce immigration' BBC Radio 4 Today
    Mark Reckless MP

    UKIP MP Mark Reckless is on Today defending the party's immigration policy. Asked why the party don't have a target for immigration, Mr Reckless said: "What we are going to do is control the quarter of a million people who come from the EU last year."

    He went on to set out policies including tighter border controls and a points-based system and said: "What that will do will hugely reduce that number of people coming to this country."

     
  18.  
    @FrankRGardner Frank Gardner

    tweets: We'll be discussing the UK Govt's controversial 'Prevent' strategy to counter extremism at 0830 on @BBCr4today

     
  19.  
    08:08: UK 'needs own Abraham Lincoln' The Guardian

    Over on the Guardian, Martin Kettle argues the UK needs its own Abraham Lincoln. If Britain proves to be "a house divided against itself" in coming years, especially with the rise of nationalism, "it will also require someone to fill Lincoln-sized shoes if the house is to continue to stand, both within these islands and in the union with Europe", he says. But he's not confident David Cameron or Ed Miliband have shown they can match the former US president's oratory skills. You can read his piece here.

     
  20.  
    08:04: Chuka: Selfies "keep it real"
    Chuka Umunna MP

    In an interview with House magazine, Chuka Umunna has praised the selfie. He said: "The thing about selfies is so often you do these posed, formal shots whereas when you are doing a group shot like that, it's a little bit more relaxed, you keep it real. Certainly with young people, it just relaxes the whole thing. And that is what my constituents say: keep it real."

    The Shadow Business Secretary also told House that he finds it awkward being praised for his looks: "I feel a little bit awkward, if I'm honest about it". He added: "It amuses my family, my friends take the piss out of me royally about it."

     
  21.  
    07:53: Bennett interview 'a serious failure' Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News
    Natalie Bennett

    The stumbling performance by Green leader Natalie Bennett in a radio interview last month was a "serious failure" that showed she had failed to prepare and left her colleagues "taken aback", according to the Green leader on Liverpool City Council John Coyne.

    He told the BBC it wouldn't happen again as Ms Bennett would in future rehearse her performance in mock interviews.

    Mr Coyne said: "It's a failure that she was underprepared we know why that happened and we know it will be fixed for the future."

    The criticism comes as Greens meet in Liverpool for their spring conference, gathering in the Liverpool Riverside constituency - which they are targeting at the general election - and where Mr Coyne is a sitting councillor.

    Mr Coyne is chair of the Green Councillors Association and was the first Green on Liverpool council after defecting from the Liberal Democrats.

    He said: "It was a serious failure and we thought it might be damaging to us but one thing that perhaps is saving us from that is people who are attracted to the Green Party tend to have a more generous disposition anyway."

    Asked about the reaction of Greens to a performance he described as "excruciating" he said: "We were taken aback but again in the Green Party we are compassionate and it certainly helped to indicate that we have someone who's a human being."

    Bennett apologised to members after the interview.

     
  22.  
    07:47: Globalisation driving immigration

    Home Affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani digests today's immigration story on his blog. He writes: "The old way of thinking about immigration and how it affects the UK needs to be tossed into the dustbin."

    He adds: "Today's migrants - particularly those from Eastern Europe - may be found in all manner of locations because of the effects of globalisation and the single market."

    Research from Oxford University shows immigration has increased the population of England by half a million in the past three years.

     
  23.  
    @rosschawkins Ross Hawkins, BBC correspondent

    tweets: Green leader Natalie Bennett will do mock interviews in future to prepare, Liverpool councillor tells me before Liverpool conference

     
  24.  
    07:41: John Major on SNP The Daily Telegraph
    John Major

    Sir John Major has also been giving his views on the rise of the SNP in Scotland. The former Tory prime minister, writing in this morning's Telegraph, says Ed Miliband should rule out a coalition with the nationalists. He says "the SNP would enter into any agreement with Labour with one overriding aim: to break up the United Kingdom". You can read the Telegraph's news story here and Sir John's piece here.

     
  25.  
    @Number10gov UK Prime Minister

    tweets: PM: To everyone in the UK, India and around the world celebrating the festival of colour and arrival of spring, I wish you a happy #Holi!

     
  26.  
    07:30: John Humphrys in Watford BBC Radio 4 Today

    In the latest of Today's 100 seats in 100 days series, John Humphrys has visited Watford to explore what effect marketing has on voter choices. You can listen to his package here.

     
  27.  
    07:23: Plaid to demand equal funding for Wales and Scotland
    Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood AM

    Plaid Cymru say they will demand equal funding for Wales and Scotland in any post-election Westminster coalition talks.

    At the party's spring conference in Caernarfon, party leader Leanne Wood will urge the "Westminster parties" to promise Wales an extra £1.2bn a year.

    More on this.

     
  28.  
    07:16: Labour's video mocking PM on debates You Tube

    Paul Waugh from Politics Home has tweeted a video from Labour contrasting David Cameron's positive and negative stances to TV debates.

     
  29.  
    07:06: PM's debates decision shows "aristocratic contempt" The Guardian
    David Cameron MP

    John Harris takes up Nick Clegg MP's "Downton Abbey" characterisation of David Cameron's decision on the debates in his column in today's Guardian.

    Harris writes of the PM: "Once he styled himself as a leader who was open and up for a challenge; now he looks more than ever like a cold power politician with a tinge of aristocratic contempt for rules and rituals that need only apply to others."

    Clegg told LBC radio yesterday: "I can't get over the lofty pomposity of the Conservatives. It's as if they think they are ordering a drink in the drawing room of Downton Abbey, telling everybody else what they should do."

     
  30.  
    07:00: SNP influence 'desirable' BBC Radio 4 Today

    Ewan Crawford, a former SNP special adviser, says the trouble for Labour is they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the Conservatives during the referendum. At the time, they said there would be no threat to public services and promised "strength and security", Mr Crawford argues, but now they say the Tories would be a disaster. Mr Crawford says the SNP would push Labour to do what Labour actually wants to do. And SNP influence on a Labour government is "desirable", he adds.

     
  31.  
    06:56: Labour MP on Scotland polls BBC Radio 4 Today

    Ian Murray, a Labour MP in Edinburgh, is speaking about the latest polls, which indicate a disastrous result for his party in Scotland could be coming. He admits if his party loses Scotland, Ed Miliband won't be prime minister. He says Labour doesn't want or need a coalition with the nationalists.

     
  32.  
    06:51: Parking leeway introduced

    The government has announced drivers will be given 10 minutes' grace before being fined if they stay too long in council-owned car parks in England. Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, says he wants to end the "war on drivers". The leeway is set to take effect later this month. And it will apply to free and paid-for parking spaces both on streets and in off-street car parks. More here.

     
  33.  
    06:46: Greens 'bigger than UKIP'

    As the Green party heads to Liverpool for their conference today, it's worth remembering that they are believed to have more members than UKIP. In January BBC Online reported the party had 43,829 members compared with UKIP's 41,966. We'll be covering the Green party conference throughout the day.

     
  34.  
    06:41: The papers
    Daily Mail and i front pages on 06/03/15

    This morning's national newspapers feature a number of political stories. Alex Kleiderman has the newspaper review here.

     
  35.  
    06:34: 'UK must support Hong Kong'
    Hong Kong

    The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has urged the government to speak up in support of democracy in Hong Kong or risk damage to the UK's reputation there. The MPs said they were "profoundly disappointed" at ministers' response when China blocked committee members from visiting the former UK colony. Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire said the UK wanted democratic "transition". More here.

     
  36.  
    06:28: Greens moot alliance with SNP
    Caroline Lucas

    The Greens are expected to call for a "progressive alliance" with the SNP at their party conference in Liverpool later today.

    Green Party MP and former leader Caroline Lucas will say: "With the rise of the SNP, and with our own Green surge, we have the chance to forge a new grouping in Parliament. A progressive alliance.

    "Of course, in Scotland and in Wales we'll be fighting hard for our distinctive values and policies. Just as we do against those individual Labour and even Lib Dem candidates with whom we have something in common." More here.

     
  37.  
    06:18: 'England's population up'

    A major analysis by the University of Oxford estimates that the population of England has risen by 565,000 since 2011 because of immigration. The Migration Observatory unit says it came up with the projections because similar official data will not be available before the general election. Two-thirds of the rise is attributed to people from the European Union. We'll bring you all the reaction.

     
  38.  
    06:13: Good morning from Westminster

    Hello and welcome to Friday's political coverage. Nick Eardley and Sarah Weaver will bring you all the action, reaction and analysis in text and you'll be able to watch and listen to all the main BBC political programmes, from Today and Breakfast through to Newsnight and Today in Parliament. Don't forget you can get in touch by emailing politics@bbc.co.uk or via social media @bbcpolitics. Here's how Thursday unfolded.

     

Features

  • Replica of a cargo boxSpecial delivery

    The man who posted himself to the other side of the world


  • Cartoon of women chatting on the metroChat wagon

    The interesting things you hear in a women-only carriage


  • Target practice for Lithuanian troopsBaltic shiver

    Europe editor Katya Adler on the alarm at Russian muscle-flexing


  • Ruben ReuterRuben returns Watch

    Child TV star with Down's syndrome on life away from home


Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Audi R8Best in show

    BBC Autos takes a look at 10 of the most eye-catching new cars at the 2015 Geneva motor show

Programmes

  • A cyborg cockroachClick Watch

    The cyborg cockroach – why has a computer been attached to this insect’s nervous system?

Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.