Brock Turner is not just a frat boy issue, it’s a men everywhere issue

Brock Turner
Brock Turner

(Updated with mugshot of Turner which was released by police after requests from the media)

It’s hard to fathom how a 20-year-old convicted of taking an unconscious girl behind a bin before sexually assaulting her can only be subject to a six month sentence.

But the most worrying thing about the Stanford student’s case is Brock Turner’s and his father’s insistence this case was about drink culture and promiscuity.

In remarks made to the court before sentence, both Turner and his dad insisted he shouldn’t be sent to prison.

His father described such a step for “20 minutes of action” as unnecessary and that his son would be more use educating other students about drinking and promiscuity.

It has to be remembered what that “20 minutes of action” involved.

At a college party in January 2015 Turner was spotted behind a bin, seemingly gyrating against a motionless body.

That body was a fellow party-goer, barely conscious, unaware of what was being done to her.

Confronted by two other students, Turner ran but was apprehended.

His victim only became aware of the extent of what had happened as she was subjected to a string of medical examinations.

Her underwear had been removed and she had been assaulted with a foreign object and Turner’s fingers.

We can’t know what else might have happened had he not been interrupted.

You could, and should, read his victim’s account of this incident and what followed here.

Turner insisted the girl, 19, consented, that both had drunk too much but ultimately he had done nothing wrong.

And that’s what makes his educational aspirations so chilling.

Because if he still insists, as he does, that he is innocent, then his warnings about drink and promiscuity must be a warning to other men; ‘don’t get trapped by drunk and promiscuous women or else you’ll become a victim like me’.

How else can his position be interpreted based on what he and his father have said about these crimes?

Since his sentencing last week and the publication of his victim’s impact statement, discussion has centred around rape culture on college campuses.

But that belies the problem.

Last week at Birmingham Crown Court I covered a case which was picked up widely in the press.

Picture from West Midlands Police; l-r Zaheer Abbas and Sajad Hussain
Picture from West Midlands Police; l-r Zaheer Abbas and Sajad Hussain

The case involved a 19-year-old woman, removed from Snobs nightclub after collapsing, drunk inside.

Once outside she was lured into a van where she was abducted, driven to an industrial estate and raped by Zaheer Abbas, 30.

Co-defendant Sajad Hussain, 35, was acquitted of rape but convicted of sexually assaulting the teen in the back of the van.

Both men claimed their victim had consented and been a willing participant despite CCTV evidence showing she could hardly stand.

Even as he was sentenced Hussain denied doing anything wrong and he was sorry he hadn’t got out of the van sooner.

Think about that.

He’s not sorry a young woman was horrifically raped and if he could do things again he would get out of the van and leave her to be raped by his mate.

Perhaps they will set up classes in prison warning fellow inmates about drinking culture and promiscuity?

Of course both of these cases have nothing to do with drinking culture and nothing to do with promiscuity.

Promiscuity suggests a choice to have a lot of sex, and if that floats your boat, go for it.

But neither of these girls had a choice, they weren’t capable of choosing.

Whether that was down to consumption of alcohol or anything else is utterly irrelevant.

What Brock Turner and Abbas and Hussain have in common is they didn’t give a solitary shit about consent. They knew what they wanted and they just took it with no regard for their victims.

This is not an issue about college campuses, frat boys or drinking too much. It’s about men everywhere understanding the meaning of consent.

It’s about recognition that an absence of refusal isn’t a free pass to do what they want.

If a woman, or man for that matter, is unable to say yes or no, that is not tacit consent, it’s a massive no no.

The fact it’s 2016 and we still have to say these things is utterly depressing.

The fact Brock Turner’s parents still insist their son is a victim is also utterly depressing because it’s from parents these lessons should imparted.

Turner’s continued denials and insistence this case is about drinking and promiscuity should have been aggravating factors come sentencing.

His punishment should have been increased to hammer the message home about how wrong his actions were and how seriously they are taken.

Instead he will be home by Christmas and back with a family who for the rest of his life will reinforce his idea that he is the victim here.

It is for parents, and teachers, to inform children as they enter adolescence about consent, where the line is drawn and the damage caused by crossing it.

It’s not hard to see why Turner thought it was fine to take a comatose girl behind a bin and use her as a plaything when his primary role models see nothing wrong in what he did.

It can only be hoped his victim’s powerful statement resonates more than his denials to inform, not only frat boys, but men everywhere.

And until Brock Turner can stand up and say this is about consent, and sexual assault and rape, not drinking and promiscuity, he should have no voice at all.

Has the Criminal Justice System already passed ‘breaking point’?

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So apparently massive cuts to the Criminal Justice System have driven it to “breaking point”, who knew?!

Well, anyone who has any contact with the system knew, that’s who.

This damning finding by Parliament’s spending watchdog the Public Accounts Committee told us what everyone knew, everyone except, apparently, the Ministry of Justice.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC said; “Too little thought has been given to the consequences of cutbacks with the result that the system’s ability to deliver justice, together with its credibility in the eyes of the public, is under threat.”

And how did the MoJ react to the fact that, under its direction, the system was found to be failing victims, witnesses, defendants, lawyers and, basically, all of us?

Like a snake eating its own tail, the MoJ said the report was clear evidence that it’s much vaunted reforms were much needed, totally ignoring the fact it’s their cuts which have driven the system into the ground in the first place.

In the wake of austerity – which has seen 27-percent of CPS lawyers chopped, legal aid slashed and courts closed – is a nice backlog of over 51,000 crown court cases. Coincidence?

Back in the autumn Michael Gove suggested, with razor-sharp insight, that one way of cutting costs would be to cut reoffending.

Yet last week we learned the privatised probation services are refusing to report breaches of court orders because it will harm their figures and therefore their bottom lines.

Last month we also heard violence, self harm and deaths are running rife in prisons.

Staff cuts mean there aren’t enough officers to allow prisoners access to education and activities which would actually cut reoffending.

Instead prisoners are spending 23 hours a day in their cells with only bunkmates and legal highs for company.

Between the cuts to police (another issue), CPS, courts, prison and probation, is it any wonder the CJS in slowly sinking in the mire?

The other day I was waiting for a trial to begin at Birmingham Crown a Court where a defendant was facing charges of theft (of a leaf blower), and aggravated vehicle taking.

The prosecution case rested largely on identification evidence which said the offender was a white, tall, ginger male.

Between his arrest, interview, charge, and plea hearing, nobody on the Crown’s side noticed (or bothered to look) at the defendant.

He was white, under six feet tall and had…brown hair.

Literally moments before the trial was due to start the prosecution decided it was best if no evidence was offered and the case was dropped.

This is one of god knows how many cases which are being charged, then free falling all the way to trial because there aren’t enough staff to properly assess them.

Between poor charging decisions, disastrous case management and woeful disclosure efforts, cases are rolling into court with as many loose ends as a plate of spaghetti.

Victims, witnesses and the definitely not-ginger defendant should have been put out of their misery on that case months ago, not to mention the waste of court time having a dead duck of a case taking up precious space in the list.

The MoJ can talk of reforms until the cows come home but you know what’s needed? Cold hard cash.

Investment. Plain and simple.

Pay for adequate numbers of CPS workers and solicitors to properly manage cases, provide legal aid wherever it is needed for justice to be done, pay for court staff and victim services to make an inevitably stressful situation that little bit easier.

Regularly in court I hear more mentions mentions of the public purse than I do of justice suggesting those famous scales may have tipped in the favour of cost.

If that’s the case, surely the system is way beyond breaking point and is, in fact, broken.

So what are the chances of proper investment in the system to revive its twitching corpse?
I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Where’s the incentive when most people don’t see the CJS as something they’ll ever need?

As law abiding citizens they’ll never be accused of a crime and being a victim is something that happens to other people.

The MoJ can wring its hands a little, promise it’s already reforming and then quietly leave the system in freefall until the next report is published.

Attention on Michael Gove’s is solely focused his EU escape plan and quite how he’ll retrieve his knife from David Cameron’s back.

If pushed he can talk about digital advances and proper punishment while ignoring elephant in the room.

All of the issues mentioned are well known. Everyone in the system knows there are too few workers for too many cases with not enough cash to handle them properly.

It’s simply not possible those at the top of the MoJ are working in blind ignorance of the effects of the cuts.

The only conclusion to draw is that neither Michael Gove nor the MoJ give much of a shit.

So long as they can claim they are trying, they don’t care how deeply the cuts bite or the implications for something as intangible as justice.

Until voters are dragged into the CJS it’s not really something that sways at the ballot box. They care about crime, but responsibility for that can be shunted off to the Home Office.

With no hope of investment and a Minister with one eye on Downing Street, the PAC’s report will go down as another marker of the CJS’s sad and lingering decline.