Nude photographs and conversations on dating apps do not count as sexual consent, according to new legal guidelines.
Prosectutors are to be given a list of myths and stereotypes they should be prepared to challenge when handing cases dealing with rape and sexual assault.
The new list is presented in the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) guidelines for lawyers. This is the first time in eight years that the guidelines have been fully updated.
What do the new legal guidelines mean?
The new legal guidance now advises that the sending of sexual images or messages should not be considered confirmation that the sender wants or consents to sex.
The guidance also includes advice regarding dating apps, and debunks the theory that meeting up with someone after messaging on an app counts towards consent.
The “type of clothing a person is wearing” and “flirting” are not indicators of sexual consent.
The law also stresses that “a person being intoxicated” is not grounds for sexual assault, and their attacker would be held responsible.
No such thing as ‘blanket consent’
CPS rape lead, Siobhan Blake, explained the changes and said the sending of explicit photos and the use of dating apps should not be taken as “blanket consent” for sexual contact.
She said, “The critical issue is around consent, and the giving and understanding of consent.
“We must not as a society or indeed as prosecutors get distracted by some of the peripheral behaviours that might seem quite unusual to us.
“In essence a person can send a naked selfie for instance one day, that is not any sort of blanket consent to a sexual encounter on another day.
“Simply because somebody's on a hook-up app, it doesn't mean that they're giving some sort of blanket consent to any sort of sexual contact."
The new guidance also highlights the increasing number of rapes and sexual assaults associated with “chemsex.” This refers to when victims may be concerned about being prosecuted for drug use.
The impact of trauma on victims can hamper their ability to remember or give a consistent account of what happened, the new advice stresses.
The guidance says, “Chemsex is the term used to describe sexual activity that occurs when the parties are under the influence of drugs taken immediately preceding and/or during the sexual activity. It is particularly commonplace within the homosexual community.
“Prosecutors should be aware that victims of rape and/or sexual assaults committed within the chemsex setting may be reluctant to engage with a prosecution for fear of disclosing offences they have committed with respect to the use or supply of prohibited drugs."
CPS figures at the end of July showed that the number of rape convictions in England and Wales had fallen to a record low, with 1,439 alleged rapists convicted of rape or lesser offenses in 2019/20. The figure was down 25 per cent compared to the previous year.