Rethinking Sexual Offences: Responsibility rather than Consent

Event date
6 March 2024
Event time
12:30 - 14:00
Oxford week
HT 8
Members of the University
Faculty of Law - White & Case Room

Notes & Changes


Professor Jonathan Herring will present his current work on the law of sexual offences. Please find the abstract below:


Rape law is in crisis.  Prosecution rates are shockingly low; rape trials too often retraumatise rather than find justice; and there is widespread confusion over the law.  This paper proposes a rethinking of rape, with a model that can be applied to other sexual offences.  It starts from the proposition that a sexual penetration is a prima facie wrong, which requires justification.  This imposes an obligation on the person penetrating another to have sufficiently good reason to justify the penetration.  The justificatory reasons are primarily provided by a reasonable belief in consent, richly understood.  This means the focus in rape trials should not be on whether the victim consented, but rather on whether the defendant had good reasons to believe there was sufficiently rich consent.  Rape should, therefore, be redefined as a sexual penetration without a reasonable belief in the other’s consent.  The consent of the other party should not be an element of the rape offence.  This puts the defendant firmly in the spotlight and highlights the key question: did he have sufficient justification for behaving as he did.


PLEASE NOTE: given the nature of the topic, the event will likely include discussions around rape and sexual offences.


Tea, coffee and cookies will be provided.

Found within

Criminal Law