When the justice system fails

Injustice - it's pretty annoying
I’m a man with many opinions. I also talk a lot.

Some would call this a perfect storm. Ask me what I think about something and there’s a high chance you’ll get a fairly black or white reply.

In fact, it’s very seldom indeed that you’ll find me without a lot to say.

Well, will wonders never cease? Earlier this week I was, mildly, flabbergasted.

Some background: In 2009, a former Tasmanian politician had a sexual relationship with and took naked photographs of a 12-year-old girl.

Yep – that’s disgusting. But it didn’t end there. The politician also had hundreds of images of children as young as eight-years-old on his personal computer.

In many people’s eyes, this seems to be an open and shut case. They guy is clearly perverted and should be removed from society to ensure the safety of local children.

Keep in mind that none of the above facts are ‘in dispute’. Rather they are 100% factually correct.

However, common sense, it seems, gave way on this occasion. The judge handed down a 10 month suspended prison sentence to the politician.

In other words, as long as he ‘behaved well’ for the next two years, he was a free man.

What the hell?

The judge’s ruling was based on the fact that the accused was undergoing treatment for Parkinson’s disease. In reporting on the trial, The Australian newspaper wrote:

The dominant factor" in Martin’s sentencing was that the former MP had been suffering hyper-sexuality caused by medication for Parkinson's disease. The judge concluded there was a "direct causal link" between this dopamine agonist medication and Martin's offences.

In other words, his medication made him do it.

That’s a pretty big call. Medication for Parkinson’s disease made this man so sexually aggressive that, in the judge’s opinion, it excused him taking advantage of a 12-year-old girl and possessing child pornography.

I’m sorry, but that is messed up.

What kind of precedent does this set for future legal cases? Essentially it opens the door for anyone to have some prescription drugs and ‘go nuts’, committing child molestation or pornography crimes, confident in the potential for them to walk free at the end, avoiding the arms of the law.

I have a lot of friends, and many of them are lawyers. They’re all very intelligent folk who usually work long hours and think very carefully about what they do each day.

But I’d have to look myself in the mirror very carefully if I was a defending lawyer for the accused in the above example.

Surely this is an example of legal defences over-stepping their mark?

Or, am I being too opinionated? Should I be more open-minded? Did this man really have absolute zero control over what he was doing, and zero realisation that having sexual relations with a 12-year-old and possessing child porn was wrong?

I could be wrong, but I seriously hope I’m not.

What this man did was WAY wrong. And him walking free does not sit well with me.


Anonymous said…
Disturbing for all involved in that matter: the Mum pimping the child; the child no doubt forever scarred; the man responsible surely plagued by guilt for the rest of his days. We live in a world frustrated by sickness, moral failures, and exploitation. The story of Jesus yet provides me with hope. Todd
Anonymous said…
I spent a lot of years as a criminal defence barrister, and an equally significant amount of time in the Family Court, and I guess I have the advantage (some may say "misfortune") of the "inside story" on a lot of these types of matters. I was an engineer before I was a lawyer - so I love "black and white" - but legal cases are rarely so easily categorised. I agree with my friend in that these cases highlight behaviours that are unacceptable, deplorable, and can have lasting effects on young lives - all things that cause me significant pain - and yet society demands a legal system in which the defendant is treated and represented fairly and vigorously. Lawyers are not judges - they are there to put information before the judge and jury so that those burdened individuals can make the best decision in all the circumstances. Have I represented people in similar circumstances to those outlined by Dylan? Yes I have...many, many times. Did I enjoy the experience? No I did not. Did I have a choice? No, I swore to administer justice to the best of my ability, without picking and choosing who deserved to be represented to the best of my modest ability. Do I believe in the justice system? I believe that the law, the lawyers that administer it, and the courts that make determinations are merely instruments designed to keep a rattling lid on the boiling pot of a society characterised by moral relativism and a lack of solutions to the "hard questions".
Michael. said…
It's this type of clear cut case that makes me so mad I'd even consider the death penalty too good. However we should all be grateful God doesn't give any of us what we deserve; instead He shows us mercy and grace - even to the perpetrator of this despicable crime. Surely He is a forgiving God; but only if you ask His for forgiveness. If you don't...
bite.my.tongue said…
You know, i've been discussing this a lot at work actually. Especially as the guy that killed 72 people is insane and not going to jail but a mental institution. i just wonder how many people claim to be 'ill or mental' when it comes to killing or sexual abuse? i just don't get it - is it that if you don't fit the 'social norm' then you are automatically considered insane, mental, or sick? too many excuses i believe.... what is justice anyway?
Dylan Malloch said…
Thanks for the really interesting comments, guys. I guess it goes to show that issues which, on the surface, may appear black and white often are not.

In fact - that gives me another idea for this week's column!