Thursday, July 05, 2012

Judge says "society to blame" for sexcrime

That, according to the Daily Telegraph, is the conclusion of Judge Gareth Hawkesworth of Cambridge Crown Court (UK). It is also the logical conclusion of many decades of the embrace of the post-modernist philosophical morass of determinism and denial of the causality principle.

What happened?

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.”

Actus reus and mens rea are the two key tests to secure a criminal conviction in most cases. Actus reus is the “guilty act” meaning the accused did the deed. Mens rea is the “guilty mind” meaning the accused intended to commit the crime. Prove both beyond reasonable doubt, and the accused is considered guilty of the crime.

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.

He wasn’t under duress nor insane, but rather under “undue influence”, not by one person, but by “the world and society”. We are ALL to blame. He didn’t really have a choice. He was corrupted. Yet the murderers of James Bulger, who were younger when convicted, were not subjected to such an excuse (and their backgrounds did explain, but did not excuse their actions).

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?

If the former, shouldn't people be free to live as they wish, as long as they respect the right of others to do so?  If the latter, is there any point to anything people do at all, unless it is a constant battle of power between those pre-determined to succeed and those pre-determined to fail, until everyone is ironed flat so we are all pre-determined to be in the same way?


Lucia Maria said...

There are a combination of factors at play here, though ultimately I believe that everyone over the age of reason is responsible for their actions. However, pornography is one of those insidious things that is freely available online that encourages the imagination and loosens moral restraints. So, that 14 year old, if he had never looked at porn, may never have even considered violating a 4 year old girl. But porn would have put thoughts in his head that he then acted on.

It would be like each persona having say, 100 silken threads preventing them from committing horrendous crimes, and maybe 50 threads need to be snapped before thoughts turn to actions. Each thread needs to be snapped with an act of the will, and the more threads are snapped, the easier each subsequent thread becomes. Society encourages the snapping of quite a few threads (ie through porn and other stuff), but each person is still morally responsible for each thread. Once restraints are removed, the only thing stopping a person is their own will, which if weak and untrained will see no reason not to do a bad thing.

There is a responsibility in society not to put bad ideas into the heads of young people, especially. They tend to be unformed in their own personal morality, and look to the outside world to tell them what is right and wrong. The fact that porn is available so easily shows an implicit acceptance of what it shows. It's very hard in a society to impart good moral values to children who are constantly bombarded by the opposite from everywhere else.

I probably haven't explained this very well, but hopefully the attempt will impart something.

libertyscott said...

Lucia I mostly agree with you, people have many influences, but ultimately adults (as individuals and in loco parentis) take responsibility for how they act upon them and in managing their childrens' access to them.
Though I resist using the collectivist term "society" as if there is some single brain or millions of people are actively doing things.

Children have been exposed throughout history to the sight, sound and talk of vast arrays of experiences. They copy some, are appalled by others, and generally if raised to respect others don't act in ways like this boy.

It does raise the spectre of censorship etc, for it's so obvious that it can make it easier. Yet it always creates the fundamental risk that when government starts criminalising what people can and can't see, that it wont know when to stop, and that one person's poison is another's nectar or curiosity.

It's easy to find examples virtually everyone can agree about, but the list of those they could not is far far bigger.

Lucia Maria said...


Yes, I agree, it's a dangerous area.

I read an article from UK where the idea of censoring at the ISP level has been floated, and something like 70% of women are for it and only 30% of men. I wonder if the discrepancy has got to do with men's online habits in relation to women.

I wonder how the conversation at home would go if the wife wanted internet filtering turned on and the husband didn't.

Anyway, it looks like the ISPs are very reluctant to even give that level of filtering as an option. But that would be much better than blanket government censorship, which will likely happen because of parents wanting to protect their kids.

libertyscott said...

In the UK now several of the largest ISPs offer this option now. BT, TalkTalk and Sky all offer "opt in" filters for customers, and both free parental control software and online proxy servers, providing double protection. In short, the market has delivered. Obviously if any of them do a lousy job, they'll get bad publicity and may lose some customers over it.

However, if the state mandates it, the state would set the rules and I don't think it could actually be more competent in doing that than the ISPs, for if it did, the ISPs would make little effort to go further or to be pro-active.

I noticed the survey you said, and you may be right for obvious reason, but then I'm wary of most newspaper/lobbyist commissioned surveys.

I know in NZ some time ago there was a "family friendly" ISP, and in NZ today some ISPs already use a filter designed to block material identified as illegal - which of course does not include most adult porn.