|Reporting on the CJS is often ill-informed|
On the 17th September 2015, the Daily Mail published a story entitled, “Judge rules it is right that child molester who abused ethnic minority girls got longer sentence because Asian sex crime victims suffer more than whites”. Many people have commented on this story in the past few days including one barrister who said on Twitter, “HHJ Cahill and CA said Asian Children suffer more than white children of [sic] sexually abused. Let that sink in for a second and then scream”
Now, if any court said that it would be an outrage but neither HHJ Cahill in the Crown Court nor their Lordships in the Court of Appeal said anything of the sort. Giving judgment of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Walker said,
“The remaining point taken by Mr Shafi [advocate for the appellant] is that the judge had, he submitted, regarded the offending as aggravated because of the victims’ ethnic and religious origin. This point is, with great respect to Mr Shafi, a misconception.”
The Court of Appeal went on to list various ways in which the victims suffered ongoing harm, some of which will apply to many victims, others are more specific,
“In her sentencing remarks the judge observed that J was finding it difficult at school because her friends knew what had happened, leading to problems and shame for her. In relation to G, the judge observed that she had had difficulty as a result of what the applicant had done to her. This had caused G to behave completely out of character: she had previously been a young girl doing well at school, and now was not doing as well as expected. For the family as a whole there had been enormous implications. The father had said that he and their mother were struggling and felt socially isolated because, within their particular community, it brought great shame on the whole family when things like this happened. He was also concerned about the future marriage prospects for his daughters. The applicant, coming from this community, knew only too well the effect upon the children and their family and this was an aggravating feature.”
So, it is clear that the point here is that these particular victims have suffered as a result of the crime against them in a way that other victims may not have suffered. The attacker knew that the children would suffer this additional harm and those are the aggravating features, not the fact that the children are Asian.
It has been suggested to me that only Asian children could ever suffer in this way. That is, with respect, utter rubbish. Here are a few examples of situations where other, non-Asian, victims of rape could claim their attackers’ crime is aggravated in a similar way:
1. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, rape was used as a weapon of war against the civilian populace – the BBC was reporting as far back as 2004 that victims were shunned by their communities as a result of the rapes.
2. DaisyColeman, a US teenager suffered abuse at the hands of her community following her attack
3. Reports have surfaced of Jehovah’s Witnesses being threatened with expulsion from theircommunities follow rapes
4. A rape victim in Manchester was ostracised from her family after she reported the crime against her
5. In Devon, a woman was shunned by the small tight-knit rural community in which she lived following an attack on her by a well-known and respected man in the community.
All of the attackers listed above could find their offences aggravated in a similar way to the reported case if they came to be sentenced by an English court. So, is it correct to say that the court is saying “Asian sex crime victims suffer more than whites”? No it clearly is not.
On a side point, you may be aware that there are more colours of people in the UK than just “Asians” and “whites”, so I have to wonder why the Mail (and others) very first go to place when writing a story involving Asian people is to relate it back solely to white people?