Thursday, June 01, 2006

Guilty - no defense

I can accept the argument that there should be some defense available when someone is accused of a crime and the 1935 law allowed none. If a boy of 16 or 17 has sex with a girl under 15, he's guilty. That's it. Doesn't matter what he thought she was or even what she told him. Guilty. Too harsh.

However, it is interesting to read how the 1935 law came about. A report in the early 1930's found that
"there was an alarming amount of sexual crime increasing yearly, a feature of which was the large number of cases of criminal interference with girls and children from 16 years downwards, including many cases of children under 10 years".

The prevailing outlook was to treat children as accomplices to the sexual crime. The Corrigan Report proposed abolishing the then existing grounds for acquittal of the accused based on "reasonable cause to believe" that the girl was above the age of consent.
So, at the time they allowed a defense based on the circumstances, but that was scrapped because it was deemed too lax given the rising incidences of sexual abuse. I wonder if we'll end up back there someday.

One other interesting aspect of that report from the '30s is that the De Valera government took the decision not to publish it because the findings were "too horrendous".