Image by qimono
When a murderer, rapist or domestic abuser is caught, the collective raises their hands and cheers. Justice has been served, callooh! callay! Now the alleged perpetrator just has to go through the justice system and be sentenced, and can be locked away for good.
Except if you’re Brock Turner, the 22 year old who sexually penetrated and attempted to rape a woman at a party, and received a six-month jail sentence, later released after only three months. His father described it as:
A steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life
Except if you’re Lavinia Woodward, a 24 year old alcoholic, drug addict and aspiring heart surgeon from Oxford, who stabbed her male partner and threw a number of objects at him—clear cut domestic violence. Judge Ian Pringle claimed a jail sentence would be too severe and would harm her desire of becoming a heart surgeon.
Except if you’re Mahmood Farooqui, a prominent Bollywood director, who was accused and later acquitted of rape because the Judge claimed a feeble no could amount to consent.
Except if you’re Sara Connor and David Taylor, who received only four and six years respectively for the murder of Indonesian police officer Wayan Sudarsa, when other people have received the death penalty for drug trafficking.
Instance after instance of some receiving barely a sentence for a horrific crime, while others have received the maximum sentence for the same or even less. The mere accusation of rape will cause a local university to ban a male student from their campus indefinitely—but someone like Lavinia Woodward commits domestic assault, and university representatives actually attend court as part of her defense counsel?
There are many explanations, ranging from how the Judge is feeling that day, to the perpetrator having connections with said Judge, with many suggesting concepts like rape culture and a class divide are responsible for varying responses to usually reprehensible crimes. A lot of the problems lie with courts focusing more on the alleged criminal’s rehabilitation than the victim who has to live with what happened for the rest of their life.
In his book My James: The Heartrending Story of James Bulger by his Father, father Ralph Bulger talks about the murder of his toddler son by two ten year olds, and how the justice system was more focused on making the child killers fit in with society than with finding justice for James. Bulger’s ex-wife Denise told reporters:
They’re getting everything they can anyway. Everything they can be given, everything they can ask for they’ve been given. Why is it always so one-sided? Why is it all for them and never the victim?
Of course we must focus on the rehabilitation of criminals. However, justice systems in many First World countries are too focused on rehabilitating the prosecuted only so much so that they can be released from custody and are not “fixed”. The Adult Parole Board in Australia has faced its fair amount of criticism for allowing criminals out on parole, only for them to commit much more reprehensible crimes—rapist Adrian Bayley being released only to rape and murder Jill Meagher is the most prominent example.
The problem is not with a mythical rape culture, as many have claimed. Of course there are countries where rape culture thrives, such as in India, where Farooqui lives, and also where the 2012 Delhi gang rape occurred. We should never dismiss cases such as these.
The problem lies within the misguided attempts to “rehabilitate” criminals, where the idea we can fix them overtakes justice for the victim/s. The problem lies within a class divide, where rich offenders such as Brock Turner and Lavinia Woodward can get away with crimes simply by virtue of being able to afford the best lawyers and being friends with the Judge.
We must look into finding solutions. Otherwise more innocent lives will be on the line.