R v Ciccarelli [2011]

R v Ciccarelli [2011] EWCA Crim 2665 established a crucial legal precedent concerning the admissibility of evidence of reasonable belief in consent under Section 75 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The court emphasised that such evidence must be realistic before the issue is presented to the jury for deliberation.

Ciccarelli, the defendant, and his girlfriend bringing a friend, the victim, back to their apartment after a party. During the night, Ciccarelli sexually assaulted the victim while she was asleep. In his defence, Ciccarelli claimed that he believed the victim would consent based on a single advance she had made towards him earlier. The trial judge, however, applied the evidential presumption in Section 75 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, deeming Ciccarelli's evidence insufficient to raise an issue about his reasonable belief in the victim's consent.

Ciccarelli appealed, contending that his evidence was adequate to warrant consideration by the jury. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, with Lord Judge CJ delivering the court's reasoning.

Lord Judge CJ emphasised that, before the issue of the appellant's reasonable belief in the complainant's consent could be presented to the jury, there needed to be some evidence beyond the fanciful or speculative supporting the reasonableness of Ciccarelli's belief. In this case, Ciccarelli and victim were effectively strangers, and Ciccarelli's belief was founded on a single advance made by the victim. The judge, therefore, was justified in concluding that there was insufficient evidence to raise an issue – in other words, the evidence was deemed incapable of supporting a reasonable belief in V's consent.

This case underscores the importance of realistic and substantive evidence when raising the issue of reasonable belief in consent under Section 75 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. The court's ruling serves to maintain a threshold for admissibility, ensuring that only evidence with some basis in reality is presented to the jury for consideration.
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