A few thoughts on these questions which were recently posed.
- Are those responsible for the cover-up and facilitation of the abuse, just as culpable as the abuser himself? And should they face the same or similar punitive measures?
- Are celebrities given a free pass and is it more difficult to bring charges against those who have such a high public image? What does that mean for us as a society or species?
- Hughes will be eligible for parole in six years time. Is this sentence sufficient? Do you think that a harsher sentence would benefit the victims or society in general? Why/why not?
In 2012 Nicholas Taylor wrote, as part of a petition seeking harsher penalties for child sex offenders that “A person who has suffered at the hands of child sexual abuse is robbed of their life, their liberties, dignity and all opportunities of living a ‘normal life’”. Many feel that child Abuse such as sexual or physical harm towards any child (and although this creates division of thought – not including spankings performed in a proper manner) should be dealt with in the severest possible manner, because achild has no way to protect themselves against their abuser – parent, relative, family friend or a stranger. Some documentation also cautions that there are a number of children who are not even aware that they are being abused and live under the notion that all families behave in this manner. This suggests that children under an age are not psychologically equipped, when forced into such a situation, to distinguish differences in appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Issues of child abuse should be dealt with harsher, if for no other reason,because children are the future of tomorrow and through the abuse and destruction of a child, the perpetrator of the crime is destroying the chance of a brighter future for that child but rather they are destroying it for all whose lives are touched, directly and indirectly.
Topics such as this become relevant in the light of the recent Hughes case. High profile cases such as these also present a number of added problems, the most commonly noticeable is the jail time served. While there are numerous news, magazine and official reports available the vast number simply list that he had been sentenced to at least 6 years jail time. These reports do not specify if this is total time or sentence or non-parole time – likely the total time of sentence. Typically according to data available concerning sexual encounters with a young person: Supreme Court sentences 1978-2011, the maximum time usually served for an individual with 5 or more counts (between 2001-2001) equates to about 30 months. Of this, the report also suggests that in excess of 90% of the sentence remained custodial (Sentencing Advisory Council, 2013). It is clear that the current legal sentencing is failing as a deterrent to protect children and should as a result be toughened. While this may seem extreme, perhaps Australia should take note of the new reforms implemented by South Korea increasing maximum period of imprisonment alongside new judicial orders, which include the introduction of orders for disclosure, orders of cure (through chemical castration) and orders for the use of a GPS tracking system (Hyungsoon, 2013). Another worthwhile addition to this would be the implementation of similar terms of incarceration for those who turn a blind eye. They are in effect conspirators to the event and under any other area of the legal system would be charged as such, why should cases concerning the assault of children in any of its manifestations be any different. Simply increasing the length of sentence alone, while providing a certain social appeasement, remains to be seen if it will achieve any direct result (There are numerous countries, Korea, USA, New Zealand, among others, that have recently raised the maximum term not just Australia)
As this argument returns back to consider the position of celebrities, Hinch commented that he personally felt a certain sense of “frustration that for a number of reasons, especially our defamation laws, the name of the man who did this to her [Sarah Monahan] was still being protected” (Hinch 2014). It seems that with the social construction of power positions that such personalities hold, as well as the notion of innocence until proven guilty (which help if you have huge amounts of money for a really good lawyer), there is a reluctance to press public charges such as these which likely stems from a fear of losing and receiving a counter claim for deformation of character resulting in the loss of livelihood. It depicts the society we live in as one which recognizes and exalts personality, privilege and position above all else. It is clear that other alternatives need to be sought to circumnavigate this issue such as controlled media exposure, where charges pressed are suppressed from the media unless a verdict of guilty is given. Certainly the public has a right to know in the case of arriving at a guilty verdict but is it essential to know if the individual is found innocent? This may encourage those who are victims of such crimes to come forward without risk or future persecution or prosecution.
Australian Associated Press, 2010, Hey Dad! co-star ‘threatened’ over sex abuse claims, news story, The Age National, From <http://www.theage.com.au/national/hey-dad-costar-threatened-over-sex-abuse-claims-20100326-r0bw.html>.
Beck, M. 2011, Child star to sue television network, news article, The Age National, From <http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/child-star-to-sue-television-network-20110307-1bl6u.html>.
Bibby, R. 2014. Robert Hughes accuser writes letter explaining her feelings, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 17, 2014. From <http://www.smh.com.au/national/robert-hughes-accuser-writes-letter-explaining-her-feelings-20140517-38ghe.html>.
Hinch, D. 2014. Hinch on the Hey Dad! ‘sex abuse’. 3AW693 News Talk. From <http://www.3aw.com.au/blogs/blog-with-derryn-hinch/hinch-on-the-hey-dad-sex-abuse/20100325-qz55.html>.
Park, Hyungsoon, Legislative Update: Recent Amendments to South Korean Criminal Law: Confronting Child Sexual Abuse (December 18, 2013). Australian Journal of Asian Law, Vol. 14, No. 6, Article 6, 2013.
Sentencing Advisory Council. 2013. Sex Offence Sentencing, Research Paper, April 2013. Tasmanian Government
Taylor, N. 2012. Petitioned Hon. Robert Clark MP, Harsher Penalties for child abusers. From <http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/harsher-penalties-for-child-abuse>.
Wells, J. 2014, Robert Hughes, former Hey Dad! star, to serve at least six years in jail over child sexual and indecent assault, news article, ABC News, From <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-16/robert-hughes-to-serve-at-least–six-years-on-sex-charges/5426126>.