Skip to content

Outdated family-court rape views need addressing

A judge who dismissed a woman's claim she had been raped, as she had done 'nothing physically' to stop the alleged perpetrator, is among a number of family court judges to hold 'outdated views', a joint open letter says today (19th February 2020).

In it, over 130 lawyers and women's rights groups, including Rape Crisis England & Wales call for Judge Tolson's continuing cases to be reviewed.

And they say family court judges should be trained on the 'meaning of consent'.

The Judiciary said a commitment to further training had since been made.

The case centred around a man who had asked to be allowed to spend time with his son, who was in the care of his former partner.

She objected because she said the man had been controlling and had raped her.

In his ruling, Judge Tolson told the family court because the woman 'was not in any sense pinned down', she 'could easily, physically, have made life harder' for the man - and it 'did not constitute rape'.

The woman later argued the judge's approach had led to her losing the legal battle with the man.

The letter - signed by organisations Women's Aid and the Centre for Women's Justice, as well as Rape Crisis - says attitudes such as those expressed by the judge 'leave children and women at risk of serious harm'.

Addressed to Justice Secretary Robert Buckland and the family courts president, Sir Andrew McFarlane, it says:

"Increasingly, the courts are no longer seen as a safe place for women who have been abused."

The letter is supported by the Victims' Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird, the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, Nicole Jacobs, and the London Victims' Commissioner, Claire Waxman.

Read more on the BBC website