So, err, denying you raped someone is libel now?

The model Janice Dickinson has sued Bill Cosby for defamation over denials made by the comedian’s representatives after she accused him of raping her in 1982.

“Cosby knows that he drugged and raped Ms Dickinson,” the lawsuit states. “He knew that calling her rape disclosure a lie was a false statement.”

That’s an interesting legal advance, isn’t it?

“You raped me!”

“No, I didn’t”

“Libel!”

Hmmm….

40 thoughts on “So, err, denying you raped someone is libel now?”

  1. Bloke in Germany

    Well, this is a difficult one isn’t it. Saying “no I didn’t rape you” is essentially accusing the accuser of lying – in some circumstances that can be defamatory. The question is whether either party has the guts to sue the other for the statement they don’t like.

    Gets even more interesting in Germany where there have been high-profile cases of witnesses for defendants who got convicted being subsequently prosecuted for perjury for giving their side of the story – in which it seemed to the casual observer that the line between the right to a defense and perjury was drawn very much in the wrong place. You can even end up in a similar situation as defendant (where you have pretty wide ranging rights to say what you like) if your defence essentially consists of accusing someone (particularly a cop) of setting you up.

    And there have been libel trials over sexual accusations that went wrong for the plaintiff before, haven’t there?

  2. Deliberately shifting the case from the criminal courts to a system where she has a better chance of meeting the lower standard of proof?

    I can feel the rancour radiating from wherever Ian B is now …

  3. SE

    Yes, moving it from a criminal to a civil matter is, well, quite clever. I never associated her with cleverness (at the risk.of a libel action against me).

  4. I would say ‘Only in America!’ but I’ve a feeling it won’t be too long before some mad hag is lobbying for this here…

  5. I’m with Hallowed Be on this one, and would also note that, since making a false accusation of rape is also a crime (wasting police time, if nothing else), then accusing somebody of making such a false accusation could well be defamatory.

  6. Noticed something similar with the De Freitas case. There were two alleged crimes: rape and a false claim of rape. Neither of the accused was ever convicted. Since they are both innocent until proven guilty, legally, the rape never happened but the claim that it did was not false.

    It’s only absurd if you assume the purpose of the legal system is to discover objective truth. But of course it isn’t, so that’s OK.

  7. SE, in the US, she’ll have to provide ‘clear and convincing evidence’.
    Her claim is that Cosby raped her after he gave her a knockout pill for her menstrual cramps, and that her statement in her 2002 book (and associated press interview) that she rebuffed him was forced on her by her publisher’s lawyers.
    Good luck with that.

  8. So Much for Subtlety

    Squander Two – “Since they are both innocent until proven guilty, legally, the rape never happened but the claim that it did was not false.”

    It is the Schrödinger’s cat of the legal world. The two were entangled in more senses than one. Quantum innit?

    “It’s only absurd if you assume the purpose of the legal system is to discover objective truth. But of course it isn’t, so that’s OK.”

    Which is why we should stop referring to guilt and innocence. But then there are some things we need to believe. That the legal system works is one of them.

  9. This woman(or more likely her lawdogs) is attempting to pre-empt any possible criminal charge. Using, as SE says above, the lower standards of proof in civil court. The most likely reason being she hopes to score some of Cosby’s cash. Truth however can easily fall victim to which side puts on a better show. If there is any chance of a criminal trial then no civil shenanigans should be allowed to muddy the waters further.

    Also the system of re-trying crimes in civil courts after they have failed in criminal ones is plain wrong. And yes OJ Simpson may well have been guilty but the state failed to make the case and that is it. Not only should double jeopardy by restored in this country (and Bliar punished for having ended it) but the rule here and the US should be extended to ensure no re-trials in civil court.

  10. And if the civil case goes tits up they should be allowed to fall back on s simple poll conducted under a CiF article. GUILTY.

  11. > Which is why we should stop referring to guilt and innocence.

    No, it’s exactly why we should keep referring to them. The Scots’ “Not proven” verdict is a travesty. Can’t prove a thing in court but they hang a sign hang round your neck the rest of your life anyway saying “Everyone knows he done it.”

  12. Is this a way of bringing a civil action when a civil action for rape/assault might be statute barred. I do not know what the law on limitation of actions is in the USA but it might explain such an odd development

  13. So Much for Subtlety

    Squander Two – “No, it’s exactly why we should keep referring to them. The Scots’ “Not proven” verdict is a travesty.”

    I think that is a separate issue. My suggestion was not that we introduce a third category. Just two, but give them two different names. Proven and Not proven seems obvious but let’s say Proven and Proven Not True perhaps. What Courts do not do is prove innocence or guilt. They simply limit the people to whom we hand out violence – and allow us to pretend it is moral.

    “Can’t prove a thing in court but they hang a sign hang round your neck the rest of your life anyway saying “Everyone knows he done it.””

    Well in fairness this is the reality anyway. It is a good system because it pressures the authorities to be competent. Unlike most of the world. Look at Italy’s royal f**k up with the dead American student. They screwed it up and tried and tried again to get it right. They were allowed to because the Italian Court system is designed to allow lawyers to debate forever without coming to any sort of conclusion. A job creation scheme. But it is not as if our system does a particularly good job of determining guilt.

  14. > Well in fairness this is the reality anyway.

    No it’s not. In some cases, it happens, but because members of the public draw their own conclusions based on their knowledge of the case itself. What the “Not proven” verdict does is to send that message to people who never even heard of the case. With a proper “Not guilty” verdict, it generally only happens in high-profile cases where the media get involved, and even then, not necessarily. Michael Le Vell is fine.

    > What Courts do not do is prove innocence or guilt. They simply limit the people to whom we hand out violence

    No, they limit the people whom we treat as guilty. The handing out of violence is one part of that treatment, but not all of it. Another part is the bit where we single people out and claim that they’re criminals. Another is when we refuse to hire them. There are lots more.

  15. IANAL, but this action may be different to sustain in the USA, where the burden of proof that the statement (that she lied) was untrue lies with the plaintiff. In the UK on the other hand…

    …I make a public statement, in my own name, accusing Tim W of abusing squirrels. He replies* saying that’s a lie. I sue him for libel. If he wishes to defend the action on the grounds that my accusation was indeed a lie, he has to prove that he hasn’t abused squirrels. The courtroom would have to be filled with furry grey rats testifying that he’s left them unmolested.

    In practice, his best course might be to counter-sue.

    *hypothetically, of course

  16. @SMFS,

    Who was the dead American student in Italy? Don’t remember hearing about that one.

  17. People DO get murdered, meaning somebody DOES murder them. And then the courts reach decisions on whether it feels confident enough to say ‘X’ has murdered ‘Y’. They do not arrive at absolute proof, but then ‘absolute’ isn’t available to mankind. They do get close. Unless someone can suggest a better system for trying and punishing he crimes that indeed are committed then perhaps the charge that we are ‘pretending’ to be moral falls flat, together with the suggestion that courts “simply limit the people to whom we hand out violence”.

  18. The dead student, Meredith Kercher, in Italy was English.. the alleged murderess, Amanda Knox (FoxyKnoxy) was American.

  19. SJW,

    > The courtroom would have to be filled with furry grey rats testifying that he’s left them unmolested.

    Surely not: they’d be testifying that, whatever he might have done to them, they weren’t squirrels.

  20. @ SMFS
    There are *already* names for the two categories – “Convicted” and “Acquitted”.

  21. “Her claim is that Cosby raped her after he gave her a knockout pill for her menstrual cramps”

    Why the fuck would Bill Cosby be consulted about menstrual cramps and, if so consulted, why would he prescribe ‘a knockout pill’? The world’s gone mad.

  22. Why the fuck would Bill Cosby be consulted about menstrual cramps and, if so consulted, why would he prescribe ‘a knockout pill’?

    Off topic but, when I was at Uni, one of my mates was complaining about a migraine (it was a hangover, or possibly, -under). One of the girls in his flat gave him one of her PMT painkillers. It knocked David sideways, upside-down and confined to his bed for about 72 hours.

    My judgement from this? If they take pills that vicious* to get out from under it, PMT must be utterly miserable.

    * Yes, I know the weird doses of female hormones wouldn’t have done him any good. But that’s the other thread.

  23. Well, to rape birds, obviously.

    Although he’s got very specialsed tastes if he’s raping birds having their periods. Very specialist…..

  24. So Much for Subtlety

    Ironman – “People DO get murdered, meaning somebody DOES murder them. And then the courts reach decisions on whether it feels confident enough to say ‘X’ has murdered ‘Y’. They do not arrive at absolute proof, but then ‘absolute’ isn’t available to mankind.”

    I have no problems with any of that. So far, so obvious.

    “They do get close.”

    But that is a interesting statement. We don’t know if that is true or not. It is a theological statement, not a factual one. In fact from what we know of the Innocence Project, Courts do not do a particularly good job at all. Mind you, we also know the Innocence Project has been stitching people up so we are kind of stuck there.

    “Unless someone can suggest a better system for trying and punishing he crimes that indeed are committed then perhaps the charge that we are ‘pretending’ to be moral falls flat, together with the suggestion that courts “simply limit the people to whom we hand out violence”.”

    I don’t need to suggest a better system to criticise the one we have. The one we have has faults whether or not a better alternative exists or not. The Courts do not do a particularly good job of assigning guilt – but perhaps they are not supposed to. They are run for the benefit of the lawyers after all. So they are a vast stage show designed to make us feel better about what we do to people we think have committed crimes.

    However if I was interested in pointing out a better option for finding guilt and/or innocence, I would point out that we do have a better alternative – we would torture. When it really matters, when we really need to know the truth, we do (or always have) tortured. Because it works. We prefer innocent people to go to jail than to use torture to find out if they really did it. That is a trade off.

  25. So Much for Subtlety

    Social Justice Warrior – “I make a public statement, in my own name, accusing Tim W of abusing squirrels. He replies* saying that’s a lie. I sue him for libel.”

    Well this is where the whole hypothetical falls down. Because “everyone does it” is a defence in libel. It is not libelous to accuse someone of doing something that everyone thinks is normal and even praiseworthy. You can’t libel Jason Donovan by saying he likes steak because everyone does. More or less. You can libel him by saying he is Gay.

    So the judge would just toss it. After all, who can resist a squirrel?

    “The courtroom would have to be filled with furry grey rats testifying that he’s left them unmolested.”

    Not sure that would help him. And what is more, I am sure that if TW was going to abuse squirrels, and after all, who wouldn’t?, he would abuse the indigenous red squirrel on aesthetic grounds alone. None of those nasty illegals.

  26. Well, yes gingers are sexy by definition. As I was saying all those years before I went grey…..

  27. So Much for Subtlety

    Hallowed Be – “Drugged flamehaired mentruating squirrels would be a gd test of Rule 34”

    You know, I think I have just found my calling in life. Finance might be an issue but I think I have casting down:

    George Clooney could play TW. The Squirrel? Well if Julianne Moore is busy perhaps this lass:

    http://frombearcreek.com/saturday-gingermageddon-65/2015_05_16_saturday-gingermageddon-6/

    And needless to say we would need Sean Penn to play Ironman.

  28. So Much for Subtlety

    ukliberty – “You want to torture innocent people?”

    No more than you want them to go to jail and be sodomised by large gentlemen named Bubba.

  29. So Much for Subtlety

    Social Justice Warrior – “The notion that torture arrives unfailingly at the truth is just a sadistic fantasy.”

    If someone made that claim, I did not notice it. Can you spell strawman?

  30. When it really matters, when we really need to know the truth, we do (or always have) tortured. Because it works.

    Someone wrote that. But he gets his kicks fantasizing about Auschwitz, so let’s ignore him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *