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The BBC'S Colin Wight reports
"The Zero Tolerance group say they are disappointed with the ruling"
 real 56k

Friday, 23 March, 2001, 19:48 GMT
Judge dismisses rape charge
Court graphic
The judge ruled that there was no evidence of force
A judge has dismissed a rape charge against a law student at Aberdeen University because there was no evidence he had used force against his alleged victim.

Lord Abernethy told the High Court in Aberdeen that for a conviction of rape there must be evidence of a degree or threat of force even though the woman had not been a willing partner.

The ruling has triggered calls for a change in law and been labelled a dangerous precedent by the Zero Tolerance group.

But legal consultant Len Murray told BBC Scotland that the judge "very correctly" stated what the law is as it stands.

Twenty-three-year old Edward Watt from Hatton of Cruden in Aberdeenshire had been charged with raping a fellow student in her room at Aberdeen University in November 1999.

Roseanna Cunningham
Roseanna Cunningham: "People will be angry"
During the trial the woman said she had repeatedly asked Mr Watt to leave her room and had begged him to stop.

Lord Abernethy agreed with a defence motion that Mr Watt had no case to answer.

He told the High Court in Aberdeen that to have sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent was not in itself rape and in this case there was no evidence of a degree or threat of force.

The woman burst into tears at the judge's decision and had to be comforted by her family and friends.

'Worrying precedent'

Roseanna Cunningham MSP said the ruling would perpetuate a myth and people would be angry and astonished.

She said: "Notwithstanding this particular judge's view of the law, I'd always understood the key element in rape was lack of consent.

"It'll come as a huge shock to women to be told that just saying no is viewed by this judge as insufficient.

"People will be surprised, astonished and angry at this pronouncement which reinforces the myth that a woman cannot have been raped unless she is on the receiving end of serious violence."

Len Murray
Len Murray: "I can totally understand the dismay of the complainer"
Len Murray told BBC Scotland: "The judge who presides over a case is there to tell the court, the jury and the whole world if you like, what the law is.

"Lord Abernethy very correctly said what the law is. I can totally understand the dismay of the complainer.

"It might be time for us to have a look and to remove the requirement that there be violence or a threat of violence if the charge is one of rape."

But Margaret Peatrie of the anti domestic violence campaign Zero Tolerance says she fears the verdict may set a worrying precedent.

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See also:

09 Nov 00 | Scotland
Rape trial changes proposed
26 Sep 00 | Scotland
Minister to hear rape plea
26 Jun 00 | Scotland
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09 Jun 00 | Scotland
New calls for rape law re-think
07 Jun 00 | Scotland
Plea for rape evidence rethink
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