Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I want, I want, I want!

I want my Gardaí to be managed and resourced such that they maintain public confidence and have the best possible detection rates. I want my Director of Public Prosecutions to be vigorous in the conviction of those who transgress our laws such that we maintain respect for the rule of law. I want my politicians to be bold and courageous as they frame new and reform existing legislation. I want my Attorney General to be the best possible lawyer for the state and remember that he/she serves the Irish people.

Do I want too much? The current shameful statutory rape debacle seems to suggest so.

It appears that only a small percentage of those who are raped ever report the crime. Of that percentage, sufficient evidence is gathered in only a small number of cases. Of those cases that are investigated, charges are preferred in only a small number of cases. Of those cases for which evidence is gathered, the DPP proceeds with a criminal prosecution in only a small number of cases. Of those brought to court, only a small percentage result in a conviction. Of those that are convicted, a fraction serve time in jail. Of those jailed, only a fraction serve a full sentence.

We wonder why there is so much rape and so little respect for human dignity.

It is customary in our country to blame the guards for everything from why we speed to why we take drugs. Despite not resourcing them or taking any interest in how they are managed we expect them to be the best police force in the world – oh, and if it isn’t too much trouble if when you catch Uncle Joe the County Councillor drink driving, could you please send him home with a warning rather than arresting him for attempted manslaughter? In current Statutory Rape fiasco, we can exonerate the boys in blue. Indeed I’d suggest that these fine men and women must be driven spare by a criminal justice system that makes such a mockery of serious crime.

Our Director of Public Prosecutions has no role in deciding what laws are framed. So it is unreasonable to blame him for the bad law that was left on our statute books or for the supreme court decision that has released child rapist(s). It does seem reasonable to hold him in part accountable for the failure to vigorously pursue criminal convictions.

The supreme court, the high court, Justice Mary Laffoy and the Law Reform Commission have illuminated both the underlying problem and the obvious consequences for antiquated laws. There is no point in blaming any of them. The Minister for Justice and the Attorney General however should have no hiding place however. This is their job. Ignorance of the law is no defence.

Had Michael McDowell been a hotelier from Donegal, a school teacher from Limerick or a bookmaker from Wexford thrust into the challenging role of Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform, he would have had just reason to plead that he didn’t realise the seriousness of the situation. The fact that he is a barrister by training and profession, a former Attorney General and an enthusiastic holder of the Justice portfolio magnifies his culpability. That he changes the Constitution with the same frequency as you or I would change our underwear, demonstrates he has the capability to respond. That he failed to act and continues to prevaricate is a sad indictment of his competence to hold his portfolio. As a father and a human being how could he not be enraged and motivated to act.

Many years ago Irish society decided that we should protect our children by outlawing sex. In our adversarial legal system, it protected the victims from further terror by legislating that they were incapable of giving consent to sex.

Our children have a right not to be sodomised by adults. They’ve a right to protection by our under the law. They have a right to expect that if society fails to protect them, they at least shouldn’t have to suffer further ordeal in our court rooms. Is this too much to expect?


Blogger -Ann said...

Perhaps someone can illuminate something for me, since I'm just a blow-in and not completely au fait with all aspects of the Irish judicial system.

The statutory rape law was ruled unconstitutional because it did not allow for a legitimate defense of an honest age mistake. OK, fine. So then why are guys getting sprung who would have had *no* way to advance a defense of an honest age mistake? (Like Mr. A or whichever alphabet man it was who had sex with a 12 year-old who was friends with his daughter?) Is the Supreme Court not able to rule only a section or a specific situation of a law unconstitutional?

5:19 a.m., June 02, 2006  
Blogger Paige A Harrison said...

I wouldn't let the fact that you are 'just a blow-in' trouble you. It seems that being a barrister, attorney general and minister for justice (as Michael McDowell is or has been) doesn't help understand the Irish judicial system. It seems that even if you write article on the matter (as the minister has), you can still plead ignorance.

As I understand it, the Supreme Court ruled that the charges brought were unconstitutional. Given that these were struck out, there was no reason for holding the men. And of course they couldn't be convicted twice for the same crime. I just wish they'd been convicted once.

Oh and by the way, you are a most welcome 'blow-in'. If our country needs anything it is a bit more external influence throughout our society.

8:33 a.m., June 02, 2006  
Anonymous Laughman said...

What a lot of people seem to have missed in all the hoo-ha is that Mr. A, (I'm presuming it stands for "Arsehole"), would have been out next year anyway!

Three years for raping a twelve-year-old child? He should have got ten years at least.

Preferably in a cell with a bunch of Hell's Angels

10:15 a.m., June 02, 2006  
Blogger -Ann said...

Paige - That does shed some light on it and it seems like the court decision yesterday was a move in the right direction. It just defied logic that one could plead guilty to a crime, accept all culpability, and then later be released because of the interpretation that technically, the law didn't exist.

It's total through-the-looking-glass stuff. You can't be convicted twice for the same crime, but if the law didn't technically exist, then couldn't you be convicted of something else, something similar? Contributing to the deliquency of a minor? Suppling alcohol to a child? Being a disgusting skeevy bastard?

Thanks for the welcome, btw. I'll do my best not to be a bad influence. :)

Laughman - I agree entirely. Most of the sentences I've heard in rape cases seem to be awfully low.

7:14 a.m., June 03, 2006  
Blogger Omaniblog said...

I was away while this issue reached a head. Maybe you've sorted this out in the meantime. Mr A was not convicted of rape. He was convicted of a much less serious offence. Because of this, his sentence was for 3 years in prison.
If he'd been charged with rape, the child might have had to give evidence about what she did. The good thing about the 1935 Act was that it enabled people who raped children to be convicted of a crime called statutory rape (unlawful carnal knowledge). The bad thing about the 1935 Act was that it enabled rapists to avoid being charged with rape.
Until there is a huge reform of the laws governing evidence, this problem will continue.
I think you are right to highlight the fact that A will be released from prison in 18 months. In addition, while in prison I don't think A will have received any therapy designed to prevent re-offending: he'll come out just as depraved as when he went in, only maybe more so - in my view. All of which means that there is another problem which needs attention: prison, the regime, the methods used inside...
I wasn't in Ireland when A was convicted but I wonder if there was any public debate about what kind of prison regime A should be subjected to?
Because A will be released without anyone knowing who he is. He'll be able to move to a new neighbourhood, and no one will know who he is and whether he is living next door. His identity is kept secret in order to protect the identity of the child he raped. That one child gains by not being subject to people knowing she was raped. But the unintended consequence is that A will be free to move about without anyone knowing who he is.

12:33 a.m., June 07, 2006  

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