Publication of the week: Professor Susan Edwards
2 November 2016
Edwards, S., “Assault, strangulation and murder – challenging the sexual libido consent defence narrative”, in A. Reed & M. Bohlander with N. Wake & E. Smith (eds), Consent: Domestic and Comparative Perspectives (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016), ch.6. ISBN: 978-1-4724-6995-3.
In this chapter Professor Edwards explores the way in which the narratives of sexual libido and desire have informed the ‘consent’ defence in cases of non-fatal and fatal assault, and, more recently, especially where strangulation is the method of violence used. The criminal law has long established that consent for whatever reason, including circumstances of private sexual conduct, cannot provide a defence to assault or murder. However, there are cases where the defendant who is charged with murder alleges that the deceased ‘victim’ consented to the activity which formed part of the sexual encounter which led to death, and in consequence he should not be criminally liable for murder. The criminal law has permitted exceptions to the general rule that consent cannot be a defence to physical harm. These exceptions have been driven by social policy but are restricted to, for example, particular contact sports, including boxing. The question which forms the discussion in this chapter is the place, if any, of consent as a defence or in mitigation in regulating harms that follow sexual acts between two or more allegedly consenting parties when followed by non-fatal or fatal harm. The chapter explores the manipulation by the defendant of a sexual consent narrative in assault and fatal assault, and especially where women who die at the hands of men are strangled and asphyxiated.
Professor Susan Edwards is a researcher and campaigner and a barrister (Door Tenant, 1 Grays Inn Square, London). She is an expert witness and member of the Expert Witness Institute. She is Dean of Law at Buckingham.