Lying about a vasectomy does not make a man a rapist, Appeal judges ruled yesterday.
They overturned the conviction of 55-year-old amateur boxer Jason Lawrance, who told a woman she could not get pregnant because he had had a vasectomy.
The woman agreed to sex with Lawrence and subsequently aborted a pregnancy.
Three Appeal judges, including Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, said that the lie did not cancel out the woman’s consent to have sex.
Lawrance was convicted last July of raping the woman, whom he met through an online dating agency in 2014.
He was given a 15-year sentence for the vasectomy rape conviction, but will remain in jail because of a life sentence imposed in 2016 for a string of other rapes.
His solicitor Shaun Draycott said: ‘We are delighted by this judgment. There was real concern that the upholding of the convictions recorded at Nottingham Crown Court would have had the potential to criminalise large sections of an otherwise law-abiding population, both male and female.
‘The ruling provides clarity on the important issue of whether one person’s consent to a sexual act can be negated by another person’s dishonesty.’
The incident happened after Lawrance and the woman discussed whether another of her partners had used a condom.
She told Lawrance he had not because he had ‘had the snip years ago.’ Lawrance told her ‘so have I’.
She said Lawrance repeated that he had had a vasectomy before she slept with him.
At his Crown Court trial last year, she said she would not have done so if he had not had a vasectomy without ‘other protection.’
Lawrance left after they had had sex twice and later texted her: ‘I have a confession. I’m still fertile. Sorry.’
A series of court rulings have left the nature of consent in rape cases in doubt.
During the extradition hearing following sex charges against WikiLeaks activist Julian Assange in 2011, judges said that it would be an offence to have sex without a condom if the other partner agreed to sex only if a condom was used.
In a case in 2013, High Court judges said a husband may have been guilty of rape when he ignored his wife’s condition that she would have sex only if he withdrew before ejaculation.
But Lord Burnett said that in Lawrance’s case the lie was not rape because it did not concern physical sex.
He ruled: ‘The deception was one which related not to the physical performance of the sexual act but to risks or consequences associated with it.’
The judges added: ‘A lie about fertility is different from a lie about whether a condom is being worn during sex.’