R v Flattery [1877]

R v Flattery [1877] 2 QBD 410 centred around criminal liability for sexual assault when consent was obtained through fraud, specifically in the context of a pretence of a surgical operation.

The defendant, John Flattery, portrayed himself as a medical doctor and surgeon. A 19-year-old woman, accompanied by her mother, consulted John Flattery for a perceived illness. John Flattery, falsely claiming the necessity of surgery, engaged in sexual intercourse with the young woman under the guise of medical treatment. The prosecution brought charges against John Flattery under the Statute of Westminster 1285, Chapter 34 (alleging rape).

The primary issue revolved around the legal interpretation of whether the complainant's submission to sexual intercourse could be considered as consent. It was argued that although the complainant had submitted to John Flattery's advances, her consent was based on the belief that he was providing medical treatment for her seizures. The court clarified that submission did not amount to legal consent when obtained through fraud. In this case, the complainant had not consented to sexual intercourse with John Flattery but had only consented to medical treatment.

The decision, rendered by Mellor J, stated that the complainant had consented to one thing, but the defendant did another materially different, on which she had been prevented by his fraud from exercising her judgment and will.

Mellor J referred to Chapter 34 of the Statute of Westminster 1285, which defined rape as sexual intercourse that had not been assented to before nor after. The conclusion drawn was that while submission could be construed as consent, it did not apply where consent had been given only for a different action or purpose, in this case, medical treatment and not sexual intercourse.

The appeal was ultimately dismissed, and the conviction was upheld, reinforcing the legal principle that consent obtained through fraud, where the complainant was deceived about the nature of the act, does not constitute lawful consent in cases of sexual assault.
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