Sunday, September 21, 2008

Courts in the Australian State of Victoria bend over backwards to protect child-molesters

And too bad about the victims

USUALLY, the law protects and defends. Sometimes, it makes mistakes. Two days ago in the County Court, I believe the law caused harm. Grandfather John Maria Beyer pleaded guilty to 31 counts of sexual assault committed between 1973 and 1985. The 12 victims were children - five of them were wards of the state. He had been their coach, their carer and taken some of them away on weekends. He had abused them in his home, in the car and on holidays.

The trauma he caused them as youngsters would have been unspeakable. The suffering they have carried with them ever since is unimaginable. As adults now, these 12 survivors had been questioned by the police. They had given statements. They had remembered as much as they could. They had summoned the courage to face their abuser again. With all that over, they came to court expecting their perpetrator to be sentenced. They came for justice, to reclaim their lives and hopefully put an end to years of torment.

Instead, they were sent away. The judge criticised the prosecutor for not providing sufficient details about the charges to enable him to deliver a sentence. He said he needed clearer information about how often and when the abuse had occurred. This means the prosecutor has to ask the victims to tell their story again. Without more details, he believed that the Court of Appeal might overturn his sentence, as it had done recently in similar circumstances.

In the place of justice, the victims have been re-traumatised. They have been told that what they remember is not enough. They need to remember even more. They need to talk about it again.

These events took place more than 20 years ago to children, some of whom were already very vulnerable and in need of protection. It is unrealistic for them to have detailed recall of everything that happened that long ago when they were so young. It is also painful to be forced to remember experiences that they have tried so hard over the years to forget. Remembering abuse is much more like reliving it all over again.

In pursuing the law, the Court of Appeal has put up an unnecessary barrier for sexual abuse cases. The harder it is for victims, the less likely they will want to come forward. Already, there are very few cases of child sexual abuse that result in successful prosecution.

Victims of child sexual assault require our compassion. They require understanding from the judiciary and fair treatment. Above all, they need to be respected for their strength and determination in telling the truth. The law offers an opportunity for real justice for victims. But it should not make them suffer so much to achieve it.

Original report here. (Via Australian Politics)

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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