On 2 April 2015 the Mirror reported that Brighton football club has begun to give its youth players training on issues surrounding sexual consent.
In 2013, four Brighton players – Anton Rodgers, 20, Lewis Dunk, 21, and George Barker, 21, and Steve Cook, 22 – were acquitted of sexual assault at the Old Bailey. There are numerous other examples of footballers being accused of serious sexual offences; Marlon King, Adam Johnson and Ched Evans being just a couple of names that spring to mind. King and Evans were convicted, however Johnson is, we understand, still on bail.
The programme – Protect, Inform and Prevent (PIP) – is reportedly designed to inform and guide the players on when consent is given. It is led by a former police detective and a psychotherapist, involving a Q&A about the players’ previous sexual experiences.
Whilst the instinctive reaction might be that it is a sorry state of affairs when we need to teach people when consent is given and not given when it comes to sexual activity, this would appear to be a very positive step. Public legal education – something we believe very strongly in at UK Criminal Law Blog – is vital.
The issue of consent is clearly misunderstood and continues to cause the public – including juries – problems. It seems then, that this initiative is positive; it raises the profile of such courses and it teaches the players about consent and (hopefully) about attitudes towards women. One hopes that if school children and teenagers (and perhaps even adult football fans) see their heroes taking this issue seriously, then perhaps there would more appetite for similar course in schools and colleges.
One concern to raise, however, is the absence of a lawyer in the programme; the Mirror report says it teaches the players about when consent is and is not given in law. Whilst the former detective may understand the definition of rape and the defence of reasonable belief, it is unlikely he or she is up to date with the latest case law and the way such issues are dealt with in the courts.
So, to my mind, this would appear to be a positive initiative. I’d welcome your thoughts or concerns in the comments below.
For an excellent blog on public access to the law and the law on consent, see Catarina Sjolin at The Sexual Offences Handbook.