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Joanne Macaulay reports
"The judge said to have sex with a woman without consent was not, in itself, rape"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
Rape law clarification sought
Court graphic
The judge ruled that there was no evidence of force
Scotland's senior law officer has referred a judge's ruling to the High Court for clarification on the laws governing rape.

The move by the Lord Advocate follows a controversial ruling by a High Court judge, in which the case against a man accused of rape was dismissed.

Last month at the High Court in Aberdeen, Edward Watt walked free after the judge, Lord Abernethy, ruled that because there was no evidence of force having been used no rape had taken place.

Mr Watt, 23, from Hatton of Cruden in Aberdeenshire had been charged with raping a fellow student in her room at Aberdeen University in November 1999.

High Court in Edinburgh
The case has been referred to the High Court in Edinburgh
During the trial the woman said she had repeatedly asked Mr Watt to leave her room and had begged him to stop.

Mr Watt argued that she was a willing partner.

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

In a controversial ruling, the judge said that to have sex with a woman without her consent was not rape, unless there was evidence of a degree of force or threat of force.

It was a ruling which drew fierce criticism from women's groups and some MSPs.

Appeal Court

After receiving a report on the trial from the Crown Office officials involved, the Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC is to refer the ruling to the High Court of Justiciary sitting as an appeal court.

Three senior judges will consider the issues raised during the trial - in effect they are being asked to clarify what legally constitutes rape.

But whatever they decide will not affect Edward Watt's acquittal at the High Court in Aberdeen.

Mr Boyd's decision was announced to the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday by deputy justice minister Iain Gray, during a Members' Business debate about Lord Abernethy's ruling.

The High Court of Justiciary, sitting as an appeal court, will set a date for the matter to be considered by three High Court judges at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh.

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See also:

25 Mar 01 | Scotland
Rape clarification plea after trial
23 Mar 01 | Scotland
Judge dismisses rape charge
09 Nov 00 | Scotland
Rape trial changes proposed
26 Sep 00 | Scotland
Minister to hear rape plea
26 Jun 00 | Scotland
Rape trial action plan unveiled
09 Jun 00 | Scotland
New calls for rape law re-think
07 Jun 00 | Scotland
Plea for rape evidence rethink
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