Content warning: this story contains descriptions of rape, murder, and assault.
In December of 2018, Grace Millane, who had graduated from the UK’s University of Lincoln three months earlier, embarked on a backpacking trip, first to South America and then to New Zealand, where she has been travelling alone for roughly two weeks before she went missing.
She was later found stuffed in a suitcase and buried outside Auckland.
CCTV footage showed that Millane (below) had willingly accompanied the man who killed her (unnamed for legal reasons) to his hotel room.
There he strangled her before taking pictures of her body and watching pornography.
He claimed in court that she had died accidentally during sex.
The evidence told a different story, reports Mashable.
Three medical experts confirmed that Millane’s death would have required unrelenting physical pressure and strength for five to 10 minutes. Because this defence was used, Millane’s parents were forced to listen to graphic claims about their daughter’s private life in court.
Her mother cried and held her head in her hands as details of Millane’s sex life and the night of her murder were read out and analysed in court.
This case, alongside the murders of 60 UK women who’ve been killed by men using the words “rough sex” or “sex game gone wrong” as a defence, has been brought to the attention of the Home Office
The Home Office has now said it would be looking into the inclusion of “rough sex” laws in the new Domestic Abuse Bill for England and Wales.
The possibility of legislation coming into force to prevent this defence being used is now looking hopeful. At the Public Bill Committee in parliament, MPs discussed amendments to the Domestic Abuse bill to end rough sex defences, which have gained the cross-party support of over 80 MPs.
Alex Chalk told MPs the government would work to outlaw this defence, and we can expect amendments on this matter within the next few weeks.
Chalk also said it was “unconscionable for a defendant to say that the death of a woman — and it is almost invariably a woman — is justified, excusable, or legally defensible, because that woman had engaged in violent and harmful sexual activity, which resulted in her death, simply because she consented.”
Citing his own experience as a defence and prosecution barrister, he said “your job as a defence advocate is to exploit whatever wiggle room there is in the law – our job here is to close that down.”
Over the past five years, seven of the 17 murders tried in courts resulted in defendants being found ‘not guilty’ or sentenced for manslaughter, and cases of death by strangulation in the UK have risen by 90% over the last decade.
In New Zealand, Grace Millane’s killer has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.
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