Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Supreme-ly Dreadful Decisions - RM column June 8

This next column was already published here though this has been tweaked and was written in the aftermath of the Mr A debacle. So while it has been debated to death on the blogosphere I am posting it as it was a column, feel free to move on quickly.

I THINK I want to move from Ireland, I’m sure that I am not the only parent to feel this way following the recent Supreme Court judgement on statutory rape. It is like a throw-back to the bad-old days.

I wanted to write about this for last week’s column but I was seriously too shocked to try. However, what is more shocking now is how quickly last week’s decision has impacted hard on one family with serious and sinister consequences for more similar cases.

So now we find ourselves in the situation where a man Mr A has admitted the sexual violation of a child of 12 (and let us be clear unlike some commentators she was not a young woman, she was a child) walking free.

I have tried to look at it all, to somehow take it in and I am enraged. The whole thing is too hard to contemplate however one family has had to contemplate it and they are now living with the consequences and I am devastated for that.

And it all began last week when the Supreme Court struck down Section 1.1 of the Criminal Law Act, 1935 in its entirety with the effect that that section ceased to have legislative existence when created in 1937. This now means there is no statutory offence of unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 15.

So Mr A because he was convicted under a law that no longer exists is free. As a mother, a feminist, a human being this leaves me speechless.

I keep thinking about the family who are dealing with the aftermath of Mr A’s release, no more action can be brought against him, he might even be able to claim damages. This is despite plying a 12-year-old with drink before forcing himself on her.

This family brought a case to court which must be hard to do, to subject your daughter and family to the trauma of the courts for justice. It's a tough decision and a brave one. And after the trauma of all the preceding events, the family is left with justice working for the offender. What is going on?

We have heard over the last week how alleged rapists can now claim they thought the young woman/child they raped/had sex with were above the age of consent. Jesus where do you begin with that?

Another thing that has upset over this as I mentioned earlier is the media calling our children young women. I may use that term sometimes for my 14-year-old daughter but I am acknowledging the young woman she is turning into. She is a child, sometimes very much so.
One thing which has shocked me since the Supreme Court decision is the idea or should I say mad statements from people I have come across thinking the ruling was a good thing.

And all because some poor men believe (!!!) they are chatting up someone who is older than they say. How are these poor men to know they are actually chatting up a girl of 15 who is dolled up to the eyeballs chancing her arm on a night out? I did it myself, I know of few young people, male and female, who didn’t try that.

Was I or anyone else who tried to look older as a teenager somehow justifying someone else’s awful behaviour by this deception? Never.

This is just nonsense. Just be careful of who you chat up – if there is any doubt, stop. What is difficult about that?

Of course the situation regarding consenting teenagers having sex who are in the same age group should be sorted but that scenario is far from anything worth using as an argument to justify the Supreme Court ruling.

But in fairness that was last week, this week people are up in arms now following Mr A’s release and rightly so.

One thing though that frightens me about this is about the view of women/young girls. It is not that long ago where one rape/sexual assault case heard arguments for the defendant which consisted of phrases like she was a sexually provocative three-year-old. Or another case where a rapist broke a woman’s back and tied to claim that he thought she was enjoying herself.
It is horrible to think the misogynistic notion that somehow females are to blame for this violence against them still pervades strong. Will we ever learn? Or should I be directing that questions to our Supreme Court judges.

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