R v B [2013] EWCA Crim 3

Key point

  • The test for reasonable belief in consent under the Sexual Offences Act is objective and mental illness of the defendant should not be taken into account

Facts

  • D was convicted of raping his partner
  • D was a paranoid schizophrenic and did so as he believed he had ‘sexual healing power’
  • The judge directed the jury to ignore D’s mental illness in determining whether he had reasonable belief in his partner’s consent for the purposes of s1(1) Sexual Offences Act 2003
  • D appealed on the ground that the judge misdirected the jury

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • Appeal dismissed

Hughes LJ

  • On the facts medical evidence showed that D’s condition did not impair his ability to understand whether or not his partner consented
  • But even if it did, such a delusional belief cannot in law render reasonable a belief that his partner was consenting when in fact she was not
  • Unless the state of mind amounts to insanity in law, a belief in consent arising from mental illness must be judged by objective standards and not by taking into account the mental illness
  • However, there might be cases where the defendant’s personality or abilities are relevant, such as if they impede his ability to recognise social cues

Commentary

  • Hughes LJ seemed to acknowledge that it would be difficult to draw the line between what is a relevant lack of ability and an irrelevant mental illness – one such case would be where the inability to recognise social cues results from low intelligence and he settled on saying that such a case will be decided on the specific facts