Courts should no longer accept “rough sex” as an excuse for death or serious injury, insists Harriet Harman, who says violent men are getting away with murder by claiming their victims were engaging in consensual S&M.
The Camberwell and Peckham MP has said the “50 shades of grey” defence meant men were being let off for choking or beating their partners to death by blaming sex acts gone wrong.
She is proposing two changes in the Domestic Abuse Bill, debated in parliament this month. The first would mean in cases of death or serious injury the defendant could not claim the victim consented.
The second would make the decision to use a charge less than murder in domestic homicide cases, such as manslaughter, sit with the director of public prosecutions.
In the House of Commons, Harman told MPs: “Men are now, literally, getting away with murder by using the “rough sex” defence”, and described the “lurid, unchallengeable accounts of addiction to violent sex” as horrendous for grieving families. Campaigning group ‘We Can’t Consent To This’ has published details of 58 British women killed by men who claimed their deaths were as a result of violent – but consensual – sex.
In a case Harman said was the worst she had come across, 26-year-old Natalie Connolly’s body was found at the home she shared with her partner in Staffordshire with 40 separate injuries including vaginal arterial bleeding, blunt-force injuries to the head, and a fractured eye socket.
He was sentenced to three years and eight months for manslaughter after claiming the injuries were from “rough sex”.
Harman’s request to the attorney general to review the “lenient” sentence was declined this year. She told the House even jurors from the trial approached her in shock that her killer did not face a murder change.
In the last five years, the defence was successful in six out of fourteen cases to reach trial, with the man either found not guilty or receiving a lighter conviction.