A 14 year old boy tied an apron around the face of a girl of 4 and performed a sex act with her. The boy got a three year community order with supervision as a sentence. The girl's parents are upset, but I don't want to dwell on what is an appropriate sentence, needless to say the boy needs both help and punishment. What matters is how the judge got to his sentence.
The judge said of the offender:
"I'm satisfied it was impulsive and I believe you have become sexualised by your exposure to and the corruption of pornography. Your exposure at such a young age has ended in tragedy. It was the fault of the world and society.”
Judge Hawkesworth has contradicted himself. For the boy has been found guilty and been sentenced, yet he effectively claims the boy did not have mens rea. The boy was not "at fault".
For that to be true, there could have been a number of defences, such as acting under duress, or insanity. The age of criminal responsibility is 10, so he can’t legally claim that he is not responsible for his actions. Yet the statement by the Judge implies just that.
This is the philosophical reef upon which Western society has been wrecking reason, objectivity and justice against for many years. It is the underlying foundation of so much taught in the humanities departments of universities. It is the fundamental dimunition and denial of free will and conscious volition.
It is, in fact, the argument put forward both by the post-modernist believers in a large state sector and many religious conservatives. The Muslim women who are told to wear the niqab do so because otherwise men “can’t help themselves” but molest them. Christian campaigners for censorship argue that erotica, pornography and violence in the media “makes” people commit those crimes, indeed the current censorship laws are in part predicated on this. That’s why you can (in New Zealand, Australia and the UK, but not the USA) be prosecuted for writing or owning erotic stories about certain sexual acts ( a woman was prosecuted for writing such letters). David Cunliffe supported this strongly in select committee when challenged about it. The idea is that such stories “make people do them”, so it is better to take away a bit of freedom than to risk “making people do crimes”.
In this case, “society” or rather EVERYBODY made the boy commit the crime, so EVERYONE should feel shame and contrition. Not only the little girl, but the perpetrator is a victim. Consider what effect that will have on the girl, to think that the offender is somehow less responsible. If "society" and the "world" are responsible, isn't she a tiny part of that?
In which case, the judge is effectively saying who is he to blame the boy? Society must do more to shield people from such corrupt influences. It is deterministic. Because the boy was exposed to pornography (although it appears he looked for it, watched it and kept doing so), it was inevitable that he would commit this crime. He wasn't just corrupted (probably true), but he was incapable of reconciling fantasy and desires with reality. He could not control himself. Yet he is not insane.
I don’t need to explain the consequences of extending that principle. For indeed we see them today:
Excusing people who steal, vandalise and commit arson against the property of innocent people because they were “upset” at their own lives. Yet vast numbers of people can claim the same or worse, but do not commit such crimes.
Excusing those who beat up their children because they don’t have enough money. Yet millions are in poverty and do not mistreat their children.
Excusing the woeful life choices of this generation, because of what happened to past generations. Yet many make different life choices having inherited next to nothing from past generations.
I don’t doubt Judge Hawkesworth is, in part, politicking. He wants politicians to restrict the access of young people to pornography. You see, he could have blamed the boy’s parents, for allowing him such unfettered access to the internet. He didn’t. He blamed us all, implying the solution is going to come from government or at least from people listening to his preaching. We all raise all children, we are all responsible for everyone else's children (and of course we must pay for them and have our behaviour regulated, as if we are children too).
Let me be clear, I believe there is an issue about unfettered access by young people to extreme content online, and that there are potentially serious consequences that can arise from this. Whether the state acts or not is a political question. However, when sane individuals commit crimes, including teenagers (who are between being children and adults), it is quite simply incorrect to claim that others are to blame.
To attribute blame to an amorphous collective such as “the world” or “society” is meaningless and even corrosive. There is no such thing as a collective brain or consciousness (unless you subscribe to the malignant class or race theories that ultimately justified mass murder on hitherto unknown scales). For a judge to even think it appropriate to “blame” in this way is not just unprofessional, but dangerous.
Who will turn up in his court next week to claim “it is society’s fault that I…” (insert crime)? How can he disagree when he believes this is a perfectly credible defence to grant someone leniency?
After all, if this boy isn’t to blame for his actions, why should others be to blame for theirs? Is not every criminal a product of their experiences, influences and history? Can everyone with rotten parents, or who was bullied, or who saw a violent or sexually explicit film, image or read a story, or had no friends, or grieved their dead pet or whatever – now say they are not to blame, but society is?
Similarly, does it not mean that everyone who does well at school, who wins a sports match, starts up a very successful business, becomes wealthy, becomes popular, invents, creates or discovers something of note, is not actually responsible for that? Are not those who succeed therefore “because of society”? Should not everyone who does well then be made to share the fruits of their endeavours? Think how often you hear that trotted out by those on the left who fondly believe in increasing taxes for those on higher incomes, who say that successful people are only successful because of “everyone else”. That if the state hadn’t provided a hospital, school or roads, these people would have been “nothing”. Even though the number of tall poppies that grow from this very same field are always few and far between.
Think what that means for how the state treats individuals. You’re not to blame when you do bad, and you’re not to get all the credit when you do good. It was all going to happen anyway, and we’re here to soften the punishment and to share the proceeds. Individual choice? Not so important now.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is at the core of so many of the political debates that are engaged in today.
Is the individual to be treated as a thinking, conscious, choosing human being, who whilst carrying a vast array of influences from family, peers, media, community, school, religion, business, can decide whether or not to act in a certain way, including whether or not to act with objectivity, reason, benevolence and respect for others? Or is the individual already pre-determined, with his ancestors, sex, race, religion, sexuality and class effectively programming him to think, act, succeed or fail in certain ways?