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Deception as to Identity: Three Rationales

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Rereading Identity Deception in the UK Sexual Offences Act 2003

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Abstract

This chapter offers a normative argument for a broadened s. 76(2)(b) (impersonation provision) of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 by focusing on the rationale plausibly underlying it. It suggests that we are justified in broadening the provision if we can show that this rationale is common to both numerical and qualitative identity deception. Three rationales are hypothesised as being implicit within the impersonation provision, and their application to qualitative identity explored. Although each rationale underlying numerical identity deception is shown to carry over to qualitative identity deception, the third rationale does so less convincingly. This rationale is, in any case, morally unappealing.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Chamallas (1987).

  2. 2.

    I do not argue that there are general reasons to have sex per se. I endorse the view taken by Madden Dempsey and Herring (2007) and Wall (2015) that there are general reasons against sexual penetration. Here, I am making the more limited point that there are reasons in the context of an existing relationship of sexual intimacy.

  3. 3.

    See Feinberg (1990); Mayer (2007).

  4. 4.

    [2018] EWHC 3508 (Admin), [2019] QB 1019.

  5. 5.

    See Pineau (1989) for an argument that consent should be reformulated in terms of what is reasonable from a woman’s point of view.

  6. 6.

    Herring (2022); Gardner (1996) makes a similar point in respect of the law on manslaughter.

  7. 7.

    Monica (n 4).

  8. 8.

    See Herring (2005) for an argument related to mistaken consent.

  9. 9.

    Homicide: Murder and Manslaughter | The Crown Prosecution Service (cps.gov.uk).

  10. 10.

    [1983] 2 AC 161, [1983] 1 All ER 978, [1983] 2 WLR 539, (1983) 77 Cr App R 17 (HL).

  11. 11.

    [1969] 1 QB 439 (DC).

  12. 12.

    Ashworth (1989), p. 439.

  13. 13.

    [2003] EWHC 2908 (Admin).

  14. 14.

    Madden Dempsey and Herring (2007).

  15. 15.

    Herring (2021), pp. 55–56.

  16. 16.

    Rape and Sexual Offences - Chapter 6: Consent | The Crown Prosecution Service (cps.gov.uk).

  17. 17.

    [1985] AC 147.

  18. 18.

    Herring (2021), p. 55.

  19. 19.

    [2020] EWCA Crim 971, [2020] 2 Cr App R 29.

  20. 20.

    I appreciate that the question of sexual orientation is complex. How we resolve this issue would seem to depend on the prior determination of the question of sex/gender. Then again, where someone is bisexual or pansexual, or gender fluid, it may not be possible to definitively say what the nature of the sex was. The point, however, is that V has the right to choose, according to her own desires, beliefs, and commitments.

  21. 21.

    It is for this reason that some scholars equate rape with torture. See Aswad (1995); Blatt (1991); Gaer (2011); McGlynn (2009); Sussman (2005); MacKinnon (2006). My point is narrower: that rape by deception is analogous to torture in this specific sense of deep self-betrayal.

  22. 22.

    [2013] EWCA Crim 1051.

  23. 23.

    For example, Lacey (1998); Cahill (2001).

  24. 24.

    MacKinnon (2006).

  25. 25.

    Ibid, p. 23.

  26. 26.

    See McGlynn (2008) on this point.

  27. 27.

    Bergoffen (2019).

  28. 28.

    Ibid, p. 313.

  29. 29.

    Ibid, p. 315.

  30. 30.

    Ibid, p. 315.

  31. 31.

    Ibid, p. 312.

  32. 32.

    Ibid, p. 312.

  33. 33.

    More will be said about power and agency in what follows.

  34. 34.

    Friedman (2004) for an account linking male domination and diminishment of female autonomy.

  35. 35.

    Sartre (1956).

  36. 36.

    Bergoffen (2009), p. 316.

  37. 37.

    My account of being-only-for-others seems to overlap with the concept of objectification and the idea, developed by Wallace (2019), of symmetrical and asymmetrical communication. Further insights may be gleaned from Pineau’s (1989) argument for communicative sexuality. More is said about the significance of meaning and judgment in Chap. 10—Concluding Remarks.

  38. 38.

    I am grateful to Professor Herring for pointing to this wider link.

  39. 39.

    Madden Dempsey and Herring (2007).

  40. 40.

    Ibid, p. 486.

  41. 41.

    Ibid, p. 486.

  42. 42.

    Bergoffen (2019), p. 27.

  43. 43.

    Herring (2021), in which he emphasises that consent is a scalar concept, p. 55.

  44. 44.

    Ibid, p. 55.

  45. 45.

    We might call this ideal consent to distinguish it from strong consent.

  46. 46.

    See Margalit (1996) on humiliation. Also, Hörnle and Kremnitzer (2011). For a critique, Kleinig (2011).

  47. 47.

    See Gardner (1996). This distinction underpins the structure of justification, which Gardner frames in terms of the combination of explanatory and guiding reasons.

  48. 48.

    Williams (2021), p. 101.

  49. 49.

    Alexander and Sherwin (2003), p. 397.

  50. 50.

    Herring (2021), p. 56.

  51. 51.

    Dougherty (2021).

  52. 52.

    R v Kirk [2008] EWCA Crim 434.

  53. 53.

    See Tadros (2016).

  54. 54.

    Chamallas (1987); Schulhofer (1998).

  55. 55.

    Of course, in another sense, she is less vulnerable because it takes more to demonstrate wantedness than it does to establish consent.

  56. 56.

    For example, expectations around consent negotiation may be sensitive to type of sexual partner/relationship. See Humphreys and Brousseau (2010).

  57. 57.

    Williams (2021), p. 101.

  58. 58.

    For the contrary view, see Duncan (2007).

  59. 59.

    Section 75(f), Sexual Offences Act 2003.

  60. 60.

    Section 75(d), Sexual Offences Act 2003.

  61. 61.

    Deception as to Gender: proposed revision to CPS legal guidance on Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO), Chapter 6 – Consent, 26 September 2022. Deception as to Gender: proposed revision to CPS legal guidance on Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO), Chapter 6 - Consent | The Crown Prosecution Service

  62. 62.

    Ibid.

  63. 63.

    Nicholson (2015).

  64. 64.

    Gibson (2020), p. 87.

  65. 65.

    Lawrance (n 19).

  66. 66.

    It seems that the guidance relating to trans-identifying defendants will depart from this rule. By requiring Vs to make enquiry about trans status, this suggests that the purported deception is insufficiently connected to the act. Whereas ordinarily, this means that D’s have no duty to tell the truth, as in Lawrance, the guidance suggests that there is a duty to tell the truth when asked. This seems to restore the active-passive deception distinction, thereby undermining Lawrance. Presumably this is because there is uncertainty about the subject-matter of the deception (i.e., whether it is biological sex, gender history, gender status, or trans status). An unexplored possibility is that the subject-matter has to do with the person’s anatomy/genitalia. There is, moreover, the deeper question of whether, depending on the subject-matter, it is even right to speak into terms of deception. Quite possibly, a compromise is being struck considering epistemic uncertainty and the need to balance competing interests.

  67. 67.

    [1957] HCA 74; 98 CLR 249.

  68. 68.

    There is lively debate on whether there are general reasons not to have sex. See, for example: Madden Dempsey and Herring (2007); Wall (2015); Greasley (2021).

  69. 69.

    It is worth noting that we do not expect this of V in a fraud case. There, D cannot escape liability on the basis that V was gullible or his lie trivial. See Herring (2021), p. 57.

  70. 70.

    Assuming she has made enquiry with D.

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Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Appendices

Reports

  • Deception as to Gender: proposed revision to CPS legal guidance on Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO), Chap. 6 – Consent, 26 September 2022. Deception as to Gender: proposed revision to CPS legal guidance on Rape and Serious Sexual Offences (RASSO), Chap. 6 - Consent | The Crown Prosecution Service

  • Reforming the relationship between sexual consent, deception and mistake. Criminal Law Reform Now Network. Consultation, December 2021. media_1027_clrnn3-deception-consultation-paper.pdf

Cases

  • Kaitamaki v The Queen [1985] AC 147

  • R v Kirk [2008] EWCA Crim 434

  • R v Lawrance [2020] EWCA Crim 971, [2020] 2 Cr App R 29

  • R v McNally [2013] EWCA Crim 1051

  • Papadimitropoulos v The Queen [1957] HCA 74; 98 CLR 249

  • Fagan v Metropolitan Police Commissioner [1968] EWHC 1 (QB), [1969] 1 QB 439

  • R (Monica) v DPP [2018] EWHC 3508 (Admin), [2019] QB 1019

  • R v Miller [1983] 2 AC 161, [1983] 1 All ER 978, [1983] 2 WLR 539, (1983) 77 Cr App R 17 (HL)

Legislation

  • Criminal Damage Act 1971

  • Sexual Offences Act 2003, s. 76(2)(b)

Webpage

  • Nicholson R (2015) ‘I’m a bisexual homoromantic’: why young brits are rejecting old labels. ‘I’m a bisexual homoromantic’: why young Brits are rejecting old labels | Sexuality | The Guardian

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Farah, R. (2023). Deception as to Identity: Three Rationales. In: Rereading Identity Deception in the UK Sexual Offences Act 2003. SpringerBriefs in Law. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-44475-3_4

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