Cambridge “Drinking Society Initiation” Exam Question

Trigger warning.

Drinking societies have secured themselves an even deeper place in Cambridge culture after an initiation was used as the subject of an exam question on sexual offences.

The question appeared in the 2013 Criminal Law paper which was sat this morning by over 200 students, the majority of whom are in their first year.

Sexual offences have to be examined on in either an essay-style or problem question format, so there will often be a hypothetical scenario set.

The events and the drinking society involved are both fictional.

It reads:

Sandra is President of The Vizards, a College drinking society. She is organising the initiation of new members. After a great deal of alcohol has been drunk, the members of the society form a circle around Billy, Gilbert and Richard who are to be initiated.

(i) Sandra blindfolds Billy and tells him that Tracey will suck his penis. Jonny does so.

(ii) Sandra penetrates Gilbert’s anus with a bottle. Although Gilbert appears to resist, and has to be held down by Tracey, he actually enjoys the experience.

(iii) Sandra waxes Richard’s pubic hair and pulls it off with such force that she removes a significant part of his skin. The wound becomes infected, but Richard is so embarrassed that he does not get medical help and dies.

Consider what offences, if any, have been committed.

Edit: Wow, this blew up. Featured in: BBC NewsThe Times (free version here), The IndependentThe TelegraphThe SunThe MirrorThe Daily MailMetroThe Huffington PostDer SpiegelThe Times of IndiaThe Irish IndependentBusiness InsiderBusiness StandardCambridge NewsThe Cambridge Tab.

21 responses to “Cambridge “Drinking Society Initiation” Exam Question”

  1. To be honest future legal professionals are going to encounter this kind of thing (and worse) so it should be a non-issue. If life needs sugar coating then don’t become a lawyer.

  2. Poor Richard!

    I completed my LLB a few years ago and if I had read this in an exam, I probably would have burst out laughing.

    It’s unnecessarily vulgar. It’s perfectly possible to examine a student’s understanding of the criminal law without laying a crass scenario like that on the table.

    And yes, of course, real life lawyers will come across cases with horrific facts/allegations, but not everyone who studies a law degree has the ambition of becoming a lawyer.

    There’s no need for it. It’s over the top.

  3. If one of the topics to be examined on was the Sexual Offences Act, then its hardly going to be a pleasant question is it, and it is only preparation for the realities situations one may come across in the legal profession. I really don’t see what is wrong with this.

  4. Usually, problem questions like this are analogous to a previous case. I’m not aware of any case with similar facts (although crim wasn’t my favorite subject so I may be wrong).

    Whoever came up with this question / scenario sounds like a bit of a depraved individual. And it would put me right off the exam – all I can think of now is ‘One man, one jar’. There’s just no need for it.

  5. A student who complains that this hypothetical scenario is over the top is stuffy, thin-skinned and unsuited to a career involving imagination or abstract thought. He would probably make an ideal lawyer.

  6. Leaving the controversial scenario aside, are there any law students or lawyers out there who actually know the answer to the exam question?

  7. Yes, it is discussed in the German media as well. And actually it is a very interesting case – not because of its vulgar content, but because of the lgeal questions implied.

  8. […] There have been some rumblings recently about an examination question appearing on the Criminal Law paper at Cambridge University. In format, it is a standard problem style question, typical for a law paper. The scenario concerns initiation rituals associated with a fictitious University drinking society, and the content is both violently and sexually graphic. The scenario has been picked up in a variety of media (here is one example; for links to others, see Sebastian Salek’s blog, in which you can also view the scenario: – TRIGGER WARNING: AS MENTIONED….) […]