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.

Court on Camera; Roll up for the rapists and PAEDOS…or not.

D'oh!

In recent weeks and months I’ve watched as my profession makes itself look like Homer Simpson at the helm of Springfield’s nuclear power plant in reporting issues around the justice system.

From the reporting of the Supreme Court’s decision in R v Jogee  (judgment here) on joint enterprise to the inevitable FOI request into legal aid every time a high profile case (usually murder) ends, the media never seems to get it right.

Even the BBC made a hash of reporting the implications on joint enterprise, then led out on the outrage of the legal aid cost in the trial of Becky Watts’ killers.

Throw into the mix the disastrous three part documentary The Prosecutors, at best a tiny glimpse into life at the CPS, a worst an agenda driven puff piece, and it’s strike three for Auntie.

Thankfully the Beeb have been pretty restrained at the news cameras may be allowed into Crown Courts for the first time under plans announced by the MoJ (more thoughts on that later).

But others have run away with themselves again, like children being given the keys to the sweetie cupboard.

And so see the Mail and Express, unable to contain their excitement, found on the kitchen floor with chocolate around their mouths, candy floss in their hair and silhouetted in sherbet after their latest binge.

‘High profile murder trials could be aired LIVE on TV’ Mail Online reported (their caps). The Express took an almost identical line.

Both used the news as a way to link the story to high profile cases, Huntley, Yorkshire Ripper and so forth.

The headlines may as well have been ‘Roll up for the rapists and PAEDOS!!!!!’

In reality the MoJ plan is for a trial in just eight court centres (including Birmingham) focusing only on judge’s sentencing remarks and at this stage this footage won’t even be made public.

It will form a decision as to whether a similar setup could ever go public.

Future broadcasts would follow a similar line and so suggestions we may see live trials is way wide of the mark.

This will not be OJ Simpson in the UK, bloodied daggers will not be wielded in front of horrified jurors and viewers most certainly won’t get to watch the rapists and murderers squirm in the dock or witness box.

Instead you will see a fairly sober looking judge delivering fairly standard sentencing remarks outlining the case and explaining the rationale behind the ultimate sentence (again, more on this soon).

Reporting like this, while disappointing, shouldn’t come as a surprise really. The justice system is reported in some quarters in the same way as the NHS – grab the attention, alarm alarm alarm and don’t worry about the finer details.

The problem here is, it’s this irresponsibility that slams the brakes on access to things like cameras in courts, it’s the reason people don’t have a grasp on the importance of things like legal aid, a well funded CPS and courts service.

Part of the argument against televising trials is that media outlets would use it for entertainment, viewing figures, web clicks and would therefore use footage in the most sensational, if not accurate way, justice be damned.

Given the above examples, is there any surprise there’s apprehension about giving the lunatics the keys to the asylum?

On the whole I think the proposals by the MoJ are sensible.

Even I hade to read that sentence back to double check it contained both the words ‘MoJ’ and ‘sensible’.

The showing of a judge’s sentencing remarks would open a window on the system that for many is a mystery.

For some it will give a glimpse as to how sentencing decisions are made, taking into consideration the facts, mitigation and guidelines.

Of course for some they will retain their sense of outrage at the system unless judges order public floggings, tarring and feathering in the town square and the return of the hangman’s rope.

But at least their outrage may have some bass is in reality.

On the whole I don’t see this move changing things a great deal. Parliament has been open to cameras for decades and people still don’t have a brilliant grasp of the passage of a Bill through the house.

It will be dependant I suppose on which cases are recorded and where and how that footage is made available.

But more transparency of our justice system can only be a good thing and perhaps real footage, showing how sentencing works might help to counter some of the dodgy reporting we’re currently lumbered with.

Given Birmingham is on the list for the MoJs video trial I’ll been keen to see the process in action.

Poundland worker who blackmailed Instagram ex with explicit photos jailed

Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts

A Poundland worker who blackmailed an ex he met through Instagram with explicit photos has been jailed for two years.

Carl Harvey, 27, from Bradford, tortured his victim over a five month period threatening to send photographs she had shared to her family.

In total the student sent bitter Harvey £809 in 95 separate cash transactions.

Birmingham Crown Court heard how she had been left so worried about his threats  she had dropped out of university unable to concentrate on her studies.

Jailing Harvey, of Linden Avenue, Bradford, for two years after he admitted blackmail, Judge Richard Bond said: “For reasons I don’t fully understand you thought it appropriate in order to obtain money to blackmail the victim.

“You threatened her with sending messages…you would send photographs of an explicit nature of her to her family.

“You knew she would believe it.

“Blackmail is a really ugly offence, you utterly betrayed that relationship.”

Continue reading

How Much!?!?

A piece on legal aid with perspective and minus the hysteria

A view from the North

The Daily Mail online is outraged at the £350,000 in legal aid given toMick and Mairead Philpott.Of course, this is not entirely correct. The Philpotts were not “given” £350,000 like some sort of lottery win. What they were given was a fair trial. What we, the public, got for that expense were safe convictions. Their victims, their children, got justice.

The outrage is sparked by the heinous nature of their crime. They were responsible for killing six children, their own children. Their notoriety was heightened by their lifestyle which was somewhat unconvential. And involved extensive reliance on benefits.

Imagine for a moment that they were innocent. That they had not committed this terrible crime. That they were innocent parents wrongly accused of murdering their own children. As they were at the outset of the trial. It was a trial process that determined they were responsible and needed…

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