HC Deb 27 November 1975 vol 901 cc1034-5
15. Mr. Ashley

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has yet received the Report of the Heilbron Committee; and if he intends to introduce legislation to amend the law relating to rape.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I have received the Report of Mrs. Justice Heilbron's Advisory Group and hope to publish it before the Christmas Recess. I shall report to the House when the Government have considered the group's recommendations.

Mr. Ashley

If, after he has studied the Heilbron Report, my right hon. Friend considers bringing in legislation to amend the law relating to rape, will he bear in mind the need to embody three important principles—first, that the woman's name should never be publicly disclosed; secondly, that the woman's sex life is utterly irrelevant to the question whether she was raped and, therefore, should not be used against her in a court; and, thirdly, that an accused man should be required to have reasonable grounds for any claim he puts forward that the woman consented?

Mr. Jenkins

I think that my hon. Friend will agree that the most useful thing we can do now is to wait and see what are the committee's recommendations on matters such as those he has mentioned. I set up the committee at short notice, and it has done its work.

Mr. Mayhew

Should it not be understood that unless we wish to depart from the general principle that there is no guilty act unless it is committed with a guilty mind, the law regarding rape should not be amended in the third instance put forward by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley)?

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. Gentleman also should wait and see what, within a matter of a few weeks now, the committee will have to say.