is a decision in which the House of Lords determined that under English criminal law, it is a crime for a husband to rape his wife.
In 1990, the defendant, referred to in the judgment only as R to protect the identity of the victim, had been convicted of attempting to rape his wife. He appealed the conviction on the grounds of a purported marital rape exemption under common law. R claimed that it was not legally possible for a husband to rape his wife, as the wife had given irrevocable consent to sexual intercourse with her husband through the contract of marriage, which she could not subsequently withdraw.
Both the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords upheld the rape conviction, declaring that a marital rape exemption did not exist in English law and that therefore, it is possible for a husband to rape his wife.
Rape in English law
The impossibility of marital rape under English common law was suggested in Sir Matthew Hale’s Historia Placitorum Coronæ (H