It’s Significant That A Male Detective In The Grace Millane Case Has Criticised The ‘Rough Sex’ Defence

We need everyone to stand up for women's rights - not just those with skin in the game, says Rhiannon Evans.

Detective Inspector Scott Beard

by Rhiannon Evans |
Updated on

Hundreds of emotional and powerful words were spoken yesterday in New Zealand as the man who killed Grace Millane was sentenced to life in jailwith no option of parole for 17 years.

The words spoken by the Millane familywere horrifically sad and will stay with many of us for years to come.

But the words of the lead detective in the case, Detective Inspector Scott Beard, also rang out across the world. Speaking outside the court, he was asked what he thought of the defendant’s attempts to claim that Grace died as part of a ‘rough sex’ game gone wrong.

‘Strangling someone for five to 10 minutes until they die is not rough sex,’ he said simply, and effectively without pause. ‘If people are going to use that type of defence, all it does is repeatedly revictimize the victim and the victim’s family. In this case the Millanes had to sit through the trial for a number of weeks and their daughter’s background, rightly or wrongly, was out there in the public.

‘I don’t believe that rough sex should be a defence, I understand why a defence would use it, but the bottom line is the individual has killed someone.’

Debate has raged across the world, following Grace’s case, about the so-called ‘rough sex’ defence. That the evidence against the man (who went on another date, photographed Grace, then buried her body following her death) was quite overwhelming, but he was still allowed to say, in court, that effectively Grace had asked for it – that she had consented to her own death.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the consequence of doing that, as Det Insp Beard points out, is that the victim’s sexual history can they be pored over and the family of a murder victim has to sit in court and listen to that. In assault cases, it’s done in front of your face.

This defence has now been employed in the deaths of 60 UK women and hundreds of assault cases – and in almost 50 per cent of the murder cases, the defence has meant shorter sentences or acquittal.

Alongside campaign group We Can’t Consent To This and Harriet Harman MP, Grazia has been campaigning to ban this defence in the UK. You can sign our petition here.

UK case law states that no person can consent to their own death - yet findings by WCCTT show ‘rough sex’ defences are being used, they are on the rise and they are, often, effective.

For men, perhaps it is always harder to understand what it is to find yourself intimidated physically... Perhaps that is the disconnect.

It was important for women around the world to hear those words come from the mouth of the male detective, not just because he knows every detail of the case and therefore can speak righteously – but because he is a man.

When campaigning for rights that largely affect women, it can feel like a one-gender-only pursuit. Think about debates you’ve had, things you’ve tried to change, petitions you’ve tried to get people to sign, things you’ve tried to make the men in your life understand.

It’s not about saying we ‘need’ men to ‘help’ us make a change but about recognition and unquestioning support. Sometimes making a change to issues that affect women can feel like emotional labour that is restricted to women. Most of us women can put ourselves in Grace’s position – all she did was go on a Tinder date the day before her birthday. Any of us could find ourselves in a vulnerable position – many of us have. We can almost feel the horror of having your life and sexual history laid out in front of people you know – some of us have experienced it already. For men, perhaps it is always harder to understand what it is to find yourself intimidated physically, to be judged, not praised, for your sexual history, to see a situation take a sudden and terrifying turn. Perhaps that is the disconnect.

Grace Millane
Grace Millane ©Getty

As anyone who has campaigned on any issue knows, it’s not just about getting those affected on board – it’s about also getting those who will probably never be affected to recognise they also want change. And, ideally, it’s about getting men to back campaigns like this without having to caveat at it with anything like ‘As a father’ or ‘As a husband’. It’s not about having skin in the game. As a human, we should all be looking out for each other. And sadly that’s not always the case.

It’s important to note that the amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill that Grazia is backing, is co-signed by both Harriet Harman MP and Mark Garnier MP. There are men out there doing great work, of course. But we need more of them. Life shouldn’t just be about fighting your own corner – it should be about backing others in theirs.

The Judge in Grace’s case, Justice Simon Moore made a note in his summation to say that the defence used by the killer (who remains anonymous by court order) was ‘entirely proper’, adding to the representative, ‘You have been publicly criticised, along with your colleagues, in social media and other media for doing so, and that is wrong.’

He was speaking as a man of law, to the letter of the law. Asked about what he thought of those comments and whether the defence should be banned, Det Insp Beard said ‘That’s something politicians and people in the justice department can debate.’

And of course, ultimately, he is right – that’s why we’re backing a law change. But there are things we can all do too. And, today, for speaking out, we’re grateful for Scott Beard.

READ MORE: Grace Millane's Killer Jailed For Life As Her Mum Says, 'The Tears I Shed Are Never-Ending'

READ MORE: The Woman Who Went On A Date With Grace Millane’s Killer After Her Murder Has Spoken About The Experience

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