I see that Gerry Adams has announced that Sinn Féin now "fully support the police".

Were the last two paragraphs of the Ard Fheis motion struck off when I wasn't looking?

That the ard chomhairle is mandated to implement this motion only when the power-sharing institutions are established and when the ard chomhairle is satisfied that the policing and justice powers will be transferred.

Or if this does not happen within the St Andrews timeframe, only when acceptable new partnership arrangements to implement the Good Friday Agreement are in place.

Classism, sexism and the Irish justice system

I was utterly disgusted today to hear the news that yet another* rapist has walked free thanks to a judge's decision to impose a suspended sentence.

The details are as follows: a young man named Adam Keane from Co. Clare broke into a woman's house and raped her as she slept. He denied it, blaming drink and drugs for a memory loss, but DNA proved his guilt. He was found guilty by a jury, but he will serve no time, because the judge gave him a three-year suspended sentence.

This is the same judge who, on the same day, imposed a 15-year sentence on another rapist, Joseph Cummins of Tipperary.

Why such a glaring discrepancy?

The judge, Paul Carney, is reported to have said that he felt "uncomfortable" handing Adam Keane a custodial sentence because he believed Keane's testimony that the action was "out of character" for him. Excuse me? He's supposed to be punished for a crime, not for a character. Is a rape somehow acceptable when committed by someone who thinks of himself as a decent fella? That's the message this decision is sending out. The fact that Adam Keane has a regular job, and is reportedly from a "good family", as compared with Joseph Cummins's "disadvantaged background", was another obvious factor in the discrepancy. Anyone who tells you that there is no class bias in the justice system is talking out their arse.

But I think there's another big difference here: the difference between the victims. Joseph Cummins's is 75. Adam Keane's is 33, and looks younger. Nearly all rape victims who come forward will tell you that they encounter a certain amount of disbelief, a suspicion that they somehow "asked for it". But nobody is going to suspect a 75-year-old of "asking for it". Did the judge find Adam Keane less guilty than Joseph Cummins because he subconsciously thought that Adam's victim just might possibly not have been the innocent party that Joseph's victim "obviously" was? (It's interesting to note here that two of Adam's jurors voted to acquit - despite the DNA evidence against him.) Is there a hierarchy of victims at work here, based upon stereotypes of the sexuality of women of different ages? There might well be.

Adam Keane's victim has courageously waived her right to anonymity and has asked the DPP to appeal the sentence. I certainly hope she succeeds.

* I was thinking of one Irish case in particular from maybe four or five years back. I can't find the details of it now, but as I recall, the judge declined to impose a custodial sentence on the grounds that the defendent "didn't hurt" the victim - apart from raping and threatening to kill her. Adding insult to injury, as the case concluded, the judge said to the rapist, "I wish you well."
For anyone who wants more information about the rogue agency I mentioned in yesterday's post, there's an excellent summary up at Indymedia.

Happy International Women's Day

I "celebrated" the day by taking part in a demonstration against a rogue agency operating on Dorset Street, about 15 minutes away from my home.

This agency advertises itself under the names "A Choice for Women" and "British Alternatives". Names that are obviously designed to attract women considering abortion, under the guise that they will provide the information and referrals these women seek.

Instead, however, they try to terrorise the women out of their decision. They do this by lying about the future that awaits women who choose not to continue their pregnancy. They tell women that abortion leads to breast cancer (lie), to child abuse (lie), to congenital depression (lie), to whatever they can come up with to scare the woman out of terminating the pregnancy. They use delaying tactics such as telling the women that it is not possible to have an abortion before two months (lie) or that they have to have an ultrasound first (lie). Apparently, in the anti-choice mind, any woman who decides to go ahead with an abortion ought to at least be forced to have it as late as possible, to make it as unpleasant as possible. If they can't prevent an abortion, they can at least punish the woman who has one. And they wonder why we say they are anti-woman.

The agency that we demonstrated in front of made it very clear that they do not have a position they can defend. They tried to stave off the demonstration by covering up the front of the building with a canvas and scaffolding. I'd like to post the photos I took, but I keep getting error messages on this stupid blog hosting site, so you'll have to take my word for it (although there are pictures up on Indymedia if you're really curious).

The bottom line in any case is that this agency and others like it are now on notice that they cannot continue to LIE to women who find themselves pregnant about the choices available to them. We are watching you, and we will continue to watch - and we will take action against any of those who are found to be trying to force vulnerable women to live by their own moral code.

Oh, and apparently there was an election in the North today, too. I'll post about that later.
  Subscribe with Bloglines