Monday, March 01, 2010

Weird Cases 2

The (not-so-)old-retired-barrister-professor looked at the watch. He figured with 15 minutes left he could raise the spirits of the class by reading some case law. He opened the dusty law reports from 1972 and flicked to R v Collins [1972] EWCA Crim 1, from the Court of Appeal. This is such a landmark case it has its own wikipedia page. Everyone gets told to read the case, few actually do. The professor started reading the judgement of Lord Justice Davies:

This is about as extraordinary a case as my brethren and I have ever heard either on the Bench or while at the Bar. Stephen William George Collins was convicted of burglary with intent to commit rape [...] he was sentenced to twenty one months' imprisonment. He is a 19-year old youth, and [...] the learned Judge was clearly troubled about the case and the conviction.

Let me relate the facts. Were they put into a novel or portrayed on the stage, they would be regarded as being so improbable as to be unworthy of serious consideration and verging at times on farce. At about 2 o'clock in the early morning of Saturday 24th July of last year, a young lady of 18 went to bed at her mother's home in Colchester. She had spent the evening with her boyfriend. She had taken a certain amount of drink, and it may be that this fact affords some explanation of her inability to answer satisfactorily certain crucial questions put to her. [The professor here noted that she would be 56 by now, and that he hoped she wasn't anyone's mum.]

She has the habit of sleeping without wearing night apparel in a bed which is very near the lattice-type window of her room. At one stage on her evidence she seemed to be saying that the bed was close up against the window which, in accordance with her practice, was wide open. [...]

At about 3.30 or 4 o'clock she awoke and she then saw in the moonlight a vague form crouched in the open window. [...]

The young lady then realised several things: first of all that the form in the window was that of a male; secondly that he was a naked male; and thirdly that he was a naked male with an erect penis. She also saw in the moonlight that his hair was blond. She thereupon leapt to the conclusion that her boyfriend with whom for some time she had been on terms of regular and frequent sexual intimacy, was paying her an ardent nocturnal visit. She promptly sat up in bed, and the man descended from the sill and joined her in bed and they had full sexual intercourse. But there was something about him which made her think that things were not as they usually were between her and her boyfriend. The length of his hair, his voice as they had exchanged what was described as 'love talk', and other features led her to the conclusion that somehow there was something different. So she turned on the bed-side light, saw that her companion was not her boyfriend. So she slapped the face of the intruder, who was none other than the Appellant. He said to her, "Give me a good time tonight", and got hold of her arm, but she bit him and told him to go. She then went into the bathroom and he promptly vanished.

The [girl] said that she would not have agreed to intercourse if she had known that the person entering her room was not her boyfriend. But there was no suggestion of any force having been used upon her, and the intercourse which took place was undoubtedly effected with no resistance on her part.

Collins was seen by the police at about 10.30 later that same morning. According to the police, the conversation which took place then elicited these points: He was very lustful the previous night. He had taken a lot of drink, and we may here note that drink (which to him is a very real problem) had brought this young man into trouble several times before, but never for an offence of this kind. He went on to say that he knew the complainant because he had worked around the house. On this occasion, desiring sexual intercourse - and according to the police evidence he had added that he was determined to have a girl, by force if necessary, although that part of the police evidence he challenged - he went on to say that he walked around the house, saw a light in an upstairs bedroom, and he knew that this was the girl's bedroom. He found a step ladder, leaned it against the wall and climbed up and looked into the bedroom.

What he could see inside through the wide open window was a girl who was naked and asleep. So he descended the ladder and stripped off all his clothes, with the exception of his socks, because apparently he took the view if the girl's mother entered the bedroom it would be easier to effect a rapid escape if he had his socks on than if he was in his bare feet. That is a matter about which we are not called upon to express any view, and would in any event find ourselves unable to express one.

At this point there was so much debate on the effectiveness of socks in descending a ladder that the professor thought it was a good time to call it a day. I was not able to abstain from thinking this should be up on my blog.
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