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The difference between guilt and sentence

EVB have done an excellent post on the ‘predatory teenager’ case here.

Jemima, of course, was in on the ground floor of this story.

There isn’t a huge amount to add, except this.

Neil Wilson may be, in the way many abusers are, a fucked up specimen of humanity. So are lots of us who don’t form relationships with thirteen year olds and send them mixed signals. Read the fuller details offered in this, frankly, badly written account of all the issues various media types have with this case.

What type of person needs to be told that, when approached by a kid truanting from school and cadging cigarettes, it’s not good practice to buy them a whole packet? What kind of person needs to be told that it’s not good practice to encourage a needy, slightly fucked up sounding kid to form a relationship with you then break it off?  Who in the name of all that is holy would then do that in a private place, and be surprised if a previously victimized kid responds inappropriately?

It may well be that Neil Wilson is himself a prior victim, who maybe hasn’t the benefit of all the wisdom and experience some of us have. That doesn’t change his guilt. Like Jeremy Forrest, he can’t use the lack of a complaint from his victim as a defence.

You can’t mitigate absolute offences. You create the circumstances in which they occur, you carry the burden of guilt. If you disagree with that, then you have to campaign against the absolute offence in question.

In WIlson’s case there was no need for the prosecution to impeach the witness. The key question is what’s the risk of Wilson re-offending, what’s required to reduce the risk of that happening, and what punishment is required? Now, again, there’s a key issue in English law about the concept of punishment. Bluntly, policy on punishment has been, to a greater or lesser degree privatized to the tabloid press. Wilson could have got all the treatment he needs to reduce the risk of re-offending, but his barrister needed to make sure there wasn’t an inappropriate level of punishment in the sentence for his client. He may even have suspected that Wilson wouldn’t flourish in prison.

At the time of the first reports of the case I suggested to friends that it stank of an informal plea bargain between prosecution and defence; Wilson didn’t fight the charges in return for the prosecution reducing the risk of heavy punishment by putting the victim on trial. If we were less likely to let the tabloids set the agenda on punishment it might have been a very different case.

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6 comments on “The difference between guilt and sentence

  1. Slutocrat
    August 16, 2013

    “He can’t use the absence of a complaint from his victim as a defence” – he could in Germany 🙂 Not condoning his actions or saying I agree with German law (which requires a complaint from the underage party for it to be a crime for an under 25 year old to have sex with someone underage). Interesting points re tabloids setting agenda on punishment.

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    • redsky
      August 19, 2013

      So all you have to do, in Germany, to have sex with a child is to groom them properly and convince them that they “want” it? That’s horrible 😦

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      • Slutocrat
        August 20, 2013

        Apparently so. I can see both the benefits and the problems with Germany’s law. In one way it’s good cos just because someone’s under 16 doesn’t mean they are being exploited – eg 15 and 18 is probs ok, 15 and 20 might be okay in some cases. And just because someone is 16 or even 18 doesn’t mean they can’t be exploited. You can be exploited if you’re any age or gender. But the German law seems a bit too lax especially in cases of middle-aged adults.

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  2. jemima2013
    August 25, 2013

    Actually that makes a lot more sense to me, I have long argued we are obsessed with the age part, and ignore the consent part in the UK, which is hot helpful at all.

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  3. redsky
    August 27, 2013

    Yes – I remember the last time the age of consent was under review there was talk of the age difference being taken into account, so that in your example, Slutocrat, a 15 year old and an 18 year old having sex might not be as bad as a middle aged man having sex with a 15 year old girl.

    I think the problem is that a lot of people find the consent part too tricky and want a simple, cut-and-dried rule like “No sex with under 18 year olds!” Lord knows a lot of people will insist “s/he consented so it’s okay” when the consent in a particular case is debatable. Yes, it’s a problem to assume that a 16 or 17 year old can’t be making a mature decision for themselves, but OTOH it allows us to protect the less mature or more easily manipulated teenager, so it’s kind of the lesser of two evils if you know what I mean.

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    • jemima2013
      August 27, 2013

      I suppose its one of those, I wouldnt start from here situations, I want a world where the less mature or vulnerable person, of any age is protected. We do it to an extent with the designation of vulnerable adults, which includes those over 18..

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This entry was posted on August 13, 2013 by in Uncategorized.

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