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Thursday, May 9

Barbara Hewson

Given that Barbara Hewson is a lawyer and probably capable of identifying libel, I shall not be calling her a rancid petulant amoral cunt.

However, I shall be looking at some of the points in this article she wrote and pointing out the flaws in her logic.

"I do not support the persecution of old men. The manipulation of the rule of law by the Savile Inquisition – otherwise known as Operation Yewtree – and its attendant zealots poses a far graver threat to society than anything Jimmy Savile ever did."

This makes the assumption that Operation Yewtree is persecuting old men, rather than following up complaints of unlawful behaviour. It also assumes that the aim of justice is to avoid a threat to society, when in fact, it's the absence of justice that's a threat to society, and the presence of justice that's a benefit to the wronged individual.

"Now even a deputy speaker of the House of Commons is accused of male rape."

A man who has no immunity to the law is accused of something unlawful. What's the problem?

"In the 1880s, the Social Purity movement repeatedly tried to increase the age of consent for girls from 13 to 16, despite parliament’s resistance. At that time, puberty for girls was at age 15 (now it is 10). "

This is a rather pernicious argument. The underlying message is that the age of consent is wrong. The presumption is that the age should be defined by when a girl reaches puberty. This is a massive red herring. It doesn't matter what definition this writer thinks should be the definition of consent. It's 16. Moreover, the effect of an adult taking advantage of their position and manipulating a child (i.e. anyone under 18) is irrelevant of when a girl's period starts or pubic hair might happen to grow. Finally, the law is what it is, and cannot be retrospectively argued as not relevant.

"Taking girls to one’s dressing room, bottom pinching and groping in cars hardly rank in the annals of depravity with flogging and rape in padded rooms."

I think this is a false dichotomy. We don't have to decide if it's as bad as flogging and raping them. We have to decide if it was lawful. Fact: it wasn't. Fact: there are complainants claiming it damaged them. Sure, everything's on a spectrum, but this is not on the legal side of that spectrum.

" The problem with this approach is that it makes abuse banal, and reduces the sympathy that we should feel for victims of really serious assaults."

Another false dichotomy. If we feel sorry for an underage girl who was touched up a bit by Jimmy Savile, does that mean we don't have compassion for an adult who was gang-raped (for example)? Of course not. One might imagine that the writer of this has some sort of sympathy budget. Bullshit!

There are some interesting points in the article about the use of the courts as therapy rather than for prosecution of law-breaking. But then...

"Touching a 17-year-old’s breast, kissing a 13-year-old, or putting one’s hand up a 16-year-old’s skirt, are not remotely comparable to the horrors of the Ealing Vicarage assaults and gang rape, or the Fordingbridge gang rape and murders, both dating from 1986. Anyone suggesting otherwise has lost touch with reality."

This is a combination of a false dichotomy and a straw man. Is someone saying that kissing a 13 year old is as bad as the Ealing Vicarage assaults? No. Does this mean that it's therefore good? Or acceptable? No. Are those people trying to round up and punish the law-breakers losing touch with reality because they think that groping a 16 year old is akin to gang rape? No. Has this writer tried to baffle the reader into accepting her point of view by using spurious reasoning? Yes. What tommy rot!

"Instead, we should focus on arming today’s youngsters with the savoir-faire and social skills to avoid drifting into compromising situations"

Let's just look at the above a second (out of context a little? well, only a little). Let me imagine the following session with my daughter.

Me: Now little one. It's really important that you learn a few tricks to defend yourself against older men who may try to touch you inappropriately.
Her: Why would they do that? Is that allowed?
Me: Well it doesn't matter if it's allowed, does it. If you aren't savvy enough...
Her: Savvy?
Me: You know, having of savoir-faire...
Her: Oh, you should have said.
Me: ... if you're not savoir-faire-ey enough, then someone might abuse you. And that would really be your fault as much as it was theirs. After all, you've allowed yourself to get into a compromising position, haven't you. You've basically lured them into taking advantage of you. You hussy.
Her: You're right. My rights as a child are nothing if I cannot even be bothered to bat away the lurid advances of paedophiles and other assorted ne'erdowells.

Sure, we want our kids to be streetwise, but that's the safety net, not the solution. The fundamental problem that Yewtree is (hamfistedly) trying to resolve is that it was considered acceptable, if kept under wraps, back in the day, for people of a certain social standing to use their position to take advantage of children. I'm not a flaming torch parading protective parent. Paedophilia is a complex problem and doesn't benefit from knee-jerk fundamentalism. It also doesn't benefit from the whitewash of some oddball apologist who's trying to spin it as though there are faults on all sides here.

She finishes:

"my recommendations are: remove complainant anonymity; introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions; and reduce the age of consent to 13."

Her view is that the complainants should have a harder job complaining, that the old men who did things in the past should be allowed to draw a line under it if it was long enough ago, and that children should be accessible to adults from 13 years old.

Barbara Hewson, barrister and writer, I am sure it's not libel if I state clearly and categorically that, as far as I'm concerned, you can go fuck yourself.


Blogger James said...

Well said, I suspect she just wants a bit of publicity and I doubt she has kids herself (fortunately for the human species)

6:24 AM  
Blogger Ashley Frieze said...

If anything, having kids can only cloud one's judgement on this.

I for one, hope there isn't another generation in her family, since they wouldn't likely contribute positively to social policy or philosophy.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

In addition to your points, the age-of-consent argument overlooks the rather important point that CONSENT WASN'T GIVEN.
We aren't talking about the statutory rape of slightly-underage girls here (not that I'm saying that would be OK)

7:08 AM  
Blogger Ashley Frieze said...

Yes... but... it's tricky. How much consent can be said to have been given or not given in those circumstances is extremely open to debate. This is why we have the concept of statutory rape.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Wills said...

As in, if you can manage to persuade a vulnerable 12-year-old, a quarter of your age, to let you put your dick inside her, it's still wrong.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Ashley Frieze said...

But if she's 13 and has "savoir faire"...?

8:27 AM  

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