Ken Clarke rape comments

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
May 20, 2011, 11:16 PM GMT+0

The British public is split over whether Justice Secretary Ken Clarke should resign in light of his controversial comments on the nature of rape, our poll has shown. There is also significant opposition to the proposals to which Clarke was referring, which would see people who plead guilty of a crime at the earliest opportunity receiving sentences reduced by up to 50%.

The poll was conducted on Wednesday evening and during the day on Thursday, before Mr Clarke appeared on BBC Question Time and apologised for his choice of words.

  • 47% of Brits say that Clarke should resign
  • While a statistically similar 42% say that his resignation is not necessary

Labour leader Ed Miliband called for Clarke’s resignation after his comments, made during a Radio 5 Live interview, appeared to classify some instances of rape as less serious than others, and confuse the meaning of ‘date rape’ as well as the legal implications of underage, but consensual, sex.

Proposals to reduce sentences rejected

Clarke was taking part in the radio interview to explain new Government proposals, which aim to allow judges to hand down shorter sentences to criminals who plead guilty at the earliest opportunity (so avoiding the need for a trial and preventing victims from having to appear in court). Such proposals are generally unpopular among the public, according to the same poll.

  • 64% oppose the proposal to reduce sentences to individuals pleading guilty by up to half
  • 21% support the idea, which, the Government claims, will save money and protect victims
  • Just over half (51%) of Brits said that a reduction in sentences was appropriate for perpetrators of less serious crimes, but should not apply to those pleading guilty to serious offences like murder or rape
  • 10% thought that reductions in sentences should apply to all those pleading guilty at the earliest stage, while one third (33%) felt that a reduction in sentences to such individuals would never be appropriate

See the survey details and full results