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'Rough sex' defence banned following campaign backed by Newbury MP

Laura Farris hailed it as a 'huge moment in the fight to end violence against women'

Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper


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Newbury MP Laura Farris gives House of Commons speech on Domestic Violence Bill

NEWBURY’S Conservative MP Laura Farris has hailed the Government’s decision to ban the so-called ‘rough sex’ defence as a “huge moment” in the fight to end violence against women. 

Mrs Farris, who was heavily involved in the cross-party campaign group that was calling for the law to be changed, said it would stop men who kill their partners in “shocking and appalling acts of extreme sexual violence saying she was ‘asking for it’”. 

The current law says that if someone kills another person during sexual activity they could be charged with manslaughter alone, while to murder someone there needs to have been an intention to kill that person or to cause them grievous bodily harm (GBH).

But on Tuesday evening, the Government published a new clause – signed by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland – announcing the defence would be outlawed under the new Domestic Abuse Bill. 

The amendment will rule out “consent for sexual gratification” as a defence for causing serious harm, in England and Wales court proceedings.

Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News, Mrs Farris – who last month asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson whether he backed the campaign – said: “It’s a huge moment for women’s rights and the fight to end violence against women.  

“It puts an end to an ugly defence that was on the increase where men were killing or seriously injuring their girlfriends and getting away with it by saying – in effect – that she was up for it.

“This is a women’s rights issue and has been a priority issue for me since the day I arrived in Parliament.

“It has been a privilege to support the brilliant campaign led by Harriet Harman and Mark Garnier. A true cross-party effort.”

Labour MP Mrs Harman called the addition to the Domestic Abuse Bill a “milestone moment in battle to challenge male violence against women”.

Justice Minister Alex Chalk last week promised the defence would be banned.

A BBC study in 2019 found more than a third of UK women under the age of 40 have experienced unwanted slapping, choking or gagging during consensual sex.

Of the women who experienced these acts, 20 per cent said they had been left upset or frightened.

The campaign group We Can’t Consent To This has collated 60 examples of women who were killed during so-called ‘sex games gone wrong’ in the UK, since 1972.

The group claims that 45 per cent of these cases ended in a “lesser charge of manslaughter, a lighter sentence or the death not being investigated as a crime at all”.

There are also 115 people – all but one of whom were women – who have had to attend court where it is claimed they consented to violent injury, the group has said.

The earliest UK example of ‘rough sex’ being used as a defence in a murder trial was in the 1972 trial of Carole Califano’s killer.

However, the campaign was prompted by the Natalie Connolly case in December 2018.

Ms Connolly was killed by her partner at their home in Worcestershire in 2016 and died of horrific injuries including serious internal trauma, a fractured eye socket, and facial wounds.

Her partner, who claimed it was a result of sex games “gone wrong”, was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to three years and eight months in prison.

Mrs Farris said: “The rough sex defence is basically to stop men who kill their partners in shocking and appalling acts of extreme sexual violence saying she was ‘asking for it’.”

“It will stop people who kill or seriously hurt someone being able to say they consented to it, that it was part of sex game that went wrong.”

The MP said she also said she believed that websites showing extreme pornography played a “significant role” in attitudes towards sexual violence.

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