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."


WorldbyStorm said...

That's abysmal whatever way one looks at it.

Fergus O'Rourke said...

1."He's supposed to be punished for a crime, not for a character", you say. This implies not only that *you* believe that sentencing should only be about punishment but that your belief has been ordained by some law. I disagree with the first, and the second is not true. (If I am wrong, show me how).

2. You note that two jurors voted to acquit, although you put your own spin on it. Does that information not suggest that this case might not be quite as straightforward as today's hysteria implies ?

3. I wasn't at the trial, so I know as much about the case as you do i.e. less than Paul Carney, who as well as knowing the facts, is experienced in these matters and expert in analysing the issues.

4. All that said, I do look forward to the appeal.

Wednesday said...

Having worked in legal offices for over half a dozen years, I'm not at all surprised to see members of your profession closing ranks over this!

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