DPP v Morgan

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DPP v Morgan
Wolverhampton Princes Square.JPG
Wolverhampton, where the defendants were drinking prior to the gang rape of Morgan's wife.
Court House of Lords
Full case name DPP v Morgan, DPP v McDonald, DPP v McLarty, DPP v Parker
Citation(s) [1975] 2 WLR 913; [1976] AC 182
Transcript(s) BAILII
Court membership
Judge(s) sitting Lord Cross of Chelsea
Lord Hailsham of St. Marylebone
Lord Simon of Glaisdale
Lord Edmund-Davies
Lord Fraser of Tullybelton
Rape, mistaken belief

DPP v Morgan [1975] UKHL 3, [1976] AC 182, [1975] 2 WLR 913, [1975] 2 All ER 347, 61 Cr App R 136, [1975] Crim LR 717 was a 1975 decision of the House of Lords which decided that an honest belief by a man that a woman with whom he was engaged with sexual intercourse was consenting was a defence to rape, irrespective of whether that belief was based on reasonable grounds. It remained the law until the enactment of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Case history[edit]

Flight lieutenant Morgan was an officer in the RAF. On the night of 15 August 1973 he was drinking in Wolverhampton with three junior colleagues. He invited the three of them to his house, ostensibly in order to have sexual intercourse with his wife, Daphne. The friends later claimed that Morgan told them that his wife was "kinky", and would feign protest (Morgan himself denied this). At the time the wife was sleeping separately from her husband, and was sleeping with her 11 year old son in his bed when the defendants came into the case. The four men forcibly overcame the wife's resistance, dragged her from her son's bed, and each one had forcible intercourse without her consent whilst the others held her. She initially screamed for her son and his older brother to call the police, but in her evidence she said the men clamped her nose and mouth with their hands to choke her till she submitted. After the ordeal she went directly to the police.

The men were charged with rape, and Morgan was charged with aiding and abetting the others to commit rape. He was not charged with rape because at the time it was believed that a husband has an absolute defence in law by virtue of being married to the victim.[1][2]


At trial the three men pleaded that they had honestly believed that Mrs Morgan had consented to sexual intercourse.

They were tried at Stafford Crown Court at a trial presided over by Mr Justice Kenneth Jones.

The trial judge directed the jury that the defendants would not be guilty of rape if they honestly believed that the woman was consenting and that belief in consent was reasonably held. On 24 January 1974 the jury convicted all four and they appealed.

House of Lords[edit]

The House of Lords found honest, mistaken belief in the victim's consent need not be reasonable to rebut a charge of rape.[3]

While the defendants won their legal argument, their convictions were nonetheless upheld. The judges found that no reasonable jury would have ever acquitted the defendants even had they been correctly directed by the trial judge as to the law, and so applying "the proviso" they upheld the convictions.


Notwithstanding the conviction of the defendants, feminist academic lawyer Professor Jennifer Temkin[4] famously referred to the decision in DPP v Morgan as a "rapist's charter".[5]


  1. ^ "Sexual Offences". Sexual Offences. ANU College of Law. Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  2. ^ In 1991 it was decided that being married to the victim was no defence to rape under English law (R v R [1991] UKHL 12), but that case was decided 17 years after DPP v Morgan.
  3. ^ Power, Helen. "Sexual offences, strict liability and mistaken belief: B v DPP in the House of Lords". Web Journal of Current Legal Issues. Archived from the original on 14 April 2012. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  4. ^ "Professor Jennifer Temkin". The City Law School. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Sara Hinchliffe. "Rape Law Reform in Britain". Retrieved 16 September 2015.