Would a civilian court have reached the same verdict?

An interesting question:

A court martial took less than an hour to clear a Royal Navy Commander of sexual assault after he begged them not to ruin his career over a “schoolboy prank”.

Commander Steven Heap allegedly left a female colleague’s bottom sore after shocking her with two “firm slaps” during a Christmas party, in what he said was an “amusing not sexual” act of “drunken buffoonery”.

The 48-year-old, who received an MBE from Prince Charles, told the hearing he was very drunk when he slapped her backside on the dance floor but insisted it was a “prank” and he was “showboating”.

The panel of five senior male officers cleared Cdr Heap of two counts of sexual assault after 57 minutes of deliberations.

Assistant Judge Advocate General Robert Hill said: “To convict him, you must be sure there was a sexual purpose to the slaps”.

Prosecutors had alleged the Commander, who joined the Navy as a submariner 30 years ago, had been sexually motivated when he slapped the woman’s backside.

Given the current hysteria perhaps not.

18 thoughts on “Would a civilian court have reached the same verdict?”

  1. By his own account, he was a bit pissed.

    So a sexual assault would have been impossible,

    A bit like pushing a marshmallow into a keyhole.

  2. No crime should depend on the motivation of the supposed offender. No court civilian or military can know what was in his mind, only what was in his hand.

    We need clear laws, with a ‘bright line’ so we can know whether we are breaking them, not depend on the offence caused to others or some lawyer’s argument.

  3. rhoda klapp

    Well that will do for ‘mens rea’ then.

    Intent does tend to have quite a bearing on how we deal with any particular act; whether something is murder or manslaughter, for example.

  4. ‘Intent does tend to have quite a bearing on how we deal with any particular act; whether something is murder or manslaughter, for example.’

    Except for ‘hate crime’ where merely a word or expression or someone ‘offended’ will do.

    And of course, outside the military, sexual assault is whatever a women says it is, and Courts and trials are unnecessary because the accused is guilty by default and must be punished by the howling mob.

  5. Talk about missing the salient point of the matter.

    So the Royal Navy can now continue on with a commander who can’t hold is liquor and is too stupid to know it. Just the sort of officer you want driving ships around, eh?

    Somehow that sounds about right to me, though I don’t really know why, given my high regard for Brits.

  6. @ rhoda klapp
    I totally disagree “mens rea” is an essential part of English law and the only means to separate manslaughter from murder, assault with intent from common assault etc – and I can tell you – even after umpteen years – that being deliberately kicked with a football boot hurt a damn sight more than accidental ones.

  7. Bloke in North Dorset

    He’s a sub-mariner, he should have claimed insanity and the court would have nodded sagely and been done in 5 seconds. Those guys really do have a screw loose, or at least the ones I’ve met do.

  8. The prosecution refused to accept a plea of “disgraceful conduct” but pressed on with a charge of “sexual assault” which it was clearly unable to support with evidence.

  9. HTH

    imo Military should be manned by those comfortable doing what others would flinch from.

    Correct decision by CM.

  10. Bloke no Longer in Austria


    Me too, I’ve met a few and they are all nutters ( literally, one went paranoid and had to go into a loony bin for a spell ). Being months under the waves rready to launch ” the big one” at any moment does that to a chap.

    Booze is strictly rationed on HM boats ( beer only, I believe), but I was surprised to hear how much they are allowed. No doubt US ships are dry.

  11. DtP – not that I mean to carp, but I don’t think it was ‘a drunken Brit who couldn’t hold his liquor’ at the wheel of either the USS John Sidney McCain, or the USS Fitzgerald.

  12. Dcardno –

    That is true. What is also true is that nobody involved in those incidents will ever drive a ship again… which is the salient point.

  13. @Bloke no Longer in Austria

    Yes, USN ships are dry. On exercises officers love being invited onto an RN ship for dinner

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