Page last updated at 17:45 GMT, Monday, 1 September 2008 18:45 UK

Dame Helen rape remark criticised

Dame Helen Mirren
Dame Helen has said she was a date rape victim as a young woman

Actress Dame Helen Mirren has been criticised for suggesting not all victims of date rape could expect their case to be brought before a court.

If a woman engaged in sexual activity but said no at the last second, she did not think the woman "can have that man into court", Dame Helen told GQ.

Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said the comments were "profoundly disappointing" and "very unhelpful".

A women's rights group said this made it more difficult for victims.

The 63-year-old has previously said that she was a date rape victim.

All women are entitled to say no
Vera Baird
Solicitor general
Mr McNulty said: "No means no, means no, and that needs to be the message as clearly as we can in terms of rape."

In the magazine interview, the Oscar-winning actress discussed her experience as a date rape victim.

She said: "I was [date-raped], yes. A couple of times. Not with excessive violence, or being hit, but rather being locked in a room and made to have sex against my will."

And, asked if she reported the incidents to the police, she said "you couldn't do that in those days".

"It's such a tricky area, isn't it? Especially if there is no violence. I mean, look at Mike Tyson. I don't think he was a rapist," said the actress.

Dame Helen said that if a woman voluntarily ends up in a man's bedroom, takes all her clothes off and engages in sexual activity in bed with him she has the right to say "no" at the last second.

She added that if the man ignored the woman it was rape.

But the actress went on: "I don't think she can have that man into court under those circumstances.

"I guess it is one of the many subtle parts of the men/women relationship that has to be negotiated and worked out between them."

However, her comments have attracted widespread criticism.

Ruth Hall, of the campaign group Women against Rape, said the comments made it harder for victims who are "already having trouble" getting the criminal justice system to take the crime seriously.

Conviction rate

"When you have gone back to somebody's house for instance, which you have every right to do, when maybe you've had something to drink, you are still entitled not to be raped," she said.

And these sentiments were echoed by Solicitor General Vera Baird.

She said being raped "makes women feel guilty and ashamed, whether they have encouraged the man's sexual interest or not".

"All women are entitled to say no. A man who goes on despite that commits rape, a crime that can be seriously damaging and which is not justified by any amount of earlier sexual interest she may have shown in him," said the solicitor general.

She said the rape conviction rate is starting to rise, albeit slowly, mainly due to better support from women being given the courage to stand by by criminal justice agencies.

There were 820 convictions recorded for rape in 2005/6, up from 618 in 1997.

It means only 5.7% of reported rapes end in a conviction.

In the past, the government has said it considers the conviction rate to be low.

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