Sunday, 27 May 2012

revenge or rehabilitation?

There has been outrage among Swindon Town FC fans this week over the potential appointment of goalkeeper Luke McCormick when he is released from Prison next month.

McCormick has served less than four years of a seven year sentence for causing death by dangerous driving, when he hit a car while travelling at 97 miles an hour down the M6, resulting in the deaths of two boys, aged ten and eight.

From a moral perspective, the public is outraged. Luke McCormick is responsible for the deaths of two innocent children. He is responsible and yet just a few years on he is going to be allowed to resume his life, presumably as if nothing has happened, while those two innocent children will never again have the chance to do anything.

But realistically, should we have the right to decide where someone is or isn’t allowed to go after they have served their sentence which has been rightly handed down to them by the justice system?

I abhor drink driving, and I firmly believe that someone who knowingly gets behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of alcohol, who then goes on to cause the death of innocent people should be brought to account for doing so.

However, knowingly driving while drunk does not imply that you intend to kill people, and I do think that on some levels we have lost sight of that. After all, how many hundreds of thousands of people drink and drive every week. How many people go out on a Thursday night and get drunk, and then get into their cars on a Friday morning, potentially still over the limit? Emotions run high because children died. However drink driving is a far more common phenomenon, and yet the reaction to that, while often harsh is nowhere near the reaction to this.

Also, many have made the point that while Luke McCormick should be allowed to work following his release from prison, it should not be allowed to happen in a public arena. And the question then is, why not? As a society, surely we either believe in the rehabilitation of offenders, or we don’t. There can’t be middle ground between rehabilitation and non rehabilitation – it is unreasonable to expect that someone who has committed an offense, has served their time for that offence and has then been released into society should be expected to keep out of the public’s way purely on the basis that the public don’t want to know that they’re there. There are of course exceptions in terms of people who have committed sexual offenses and are considered a risk to certain members of the public needing to conform to certain restrictions, however we cannot as members of the public start to demand that people who, having served their sentences, should have to meet with certain restrictions purely on the basis that we the public feel we have the right to apply our own moral code to others’ situations.

Many people have issues with the length of sentences for certain crimes, and I do sympathise with that. However, our issue with that should surely be directed at the justice system, not at the individuals themselves or those who choose to employ them upon their release. I can only hope that Luke McCormick has learned from the mistakes he has made, and have little doubt that he will live with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life. There are some who will believe that there is no punishment harsh enough for the death of two innocent children, however, Luke McCormick has served his sentence, and as such should be fit to work in possibly the only career that he is able to. Furthermore, Swindon Town should be allowed to support the rehabilitation of an offender by employing him if they so wish.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

why would you defend a rapist?

Last week, footballer Ched Evans was convicted of raping a nineteen year old woman and sentenced to five years in Prison. Another player, Clayton Macdonald, was found not guilty, on the basis the woman had given consent earlier in the evening while she was still sober. The backlash following this conviction has been immense, with a support page being set up for Evans, demanding a retrial and protesting his innocence. The fact is, Ched Evans is a rapist. He has been tried, convicted, and sentenced – he is a convicted rapist. Given the shockingly low conviction rate for rape in this country, it is in fact a miracle that this conviction has been obtained, and we should not lose sight of that. But this has raised a lot of issues. On the Evans’ support page on facebook, on twitter, in the press comments have ranged from people saying that he couldn’t be guilty as he is a great footballer, to saying that the woman was drunk and therefore she is the one responsible. She has been named publically, even though she is legally entitled to anonymity, and even though she is in fact, the victim – determined not only by her statement and opinion but also by due legal process. And yet she has been vilified on facebook, on twitter and elsewhere, whereas her rapist has been all but declared an innocent victim because ... he is a good footballer?So I think we have to ask the questions, how is it that when a man rapes a woman, he is presumed innocent? How is it that if a woman gets drunk and is raped, she is the one considered responsible? And more to the point, how is it considered that unless you explicitly say no, consent is assumed to have been given? The woman in question was considered too drunk to have consented to Evans, hence the conviction. She was considered to have not been in a fit state to consent to having sex with him, and as such, he raped her, it is that simple.And yet, because she consented to have sex with Clayton Macdonald earlier in the evening, it wasn’t considered rape, even though, having been in no fit state to say yes, she presumably was in no fit state to say no either. It seems that people are incapable of looking beyond Ched Evans as a footballer, and seeing the bigger picture, a bigger picture which so many of us could be a part of. A picture of a society which holds the rape victim responsible for not being raped, rather than the rapist responsible for not raping his victim. Where do the women defending Ched Evans fit into that picture? If you go out and get drunk on a Saturday night and are then raped, do you consider that you are the guilty party? Even though you didn’t consent? How little do you think that a woman is worth that it is ok for a man to have sex with her even if she is not in a position to say no?And for the men defending Ched Evans on the basis the woman was drunk, why on earth would you think it acceptable to have sex with a woman so drunk that she was not in a position to say either yes or no? What does that say about you? And more to the point, what does that say about your opinion of women? Ched Evans is a rapist.