Why rape cases should not be subject to reasonable doubt

Is it better to have the harm of 100 sexual assaults than the harm of one false conviction?

US film producer Harvey Weinstein poses during a photocall at the 70th Cannes Film Festival on May 23, 2017. (Photo: YANN COATSALIOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Conviction rates for sexual assault against women are shockingly low, to the extent that, even in a developed nation such as the United Kingdom, only 6 per cent of rape allegations result in a conviction, a far lower rate than for any other violent crime. As The Guardian columnist Julia Bindel puts it, ‘rape might as well be legal’.

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“Beyond a reasonable doubt”: How juries get it wrong

The famed author and public intellectual has a bone to pick with the American legal system.

Evolutionary biologist and former Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University Richard Dawkins has a bone to pick with the U.S. judicial system. Specifically, the phrase "beyond reasonable doubt". He argues that it doesn't mean what it says it means — that two different juries would come to two different verdicts (or perhaps the same verdict but in a different way). Therefore, the phrase loses its power. It's semantics, sure, but when people's lives hang in the balance, Richard argues that we should perhaps take a second look at the phrase. Richard Dawkins' new book is Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist.