Sunday, January 02, 2011

Adults or otherwise

There are some things—sorry, a great many things—that are seriously fucked up in this country, but surely one of the most urgent and pressing issues is that of responsibility.

Yes, sure, the Coalition is happy to bang on about "personal responsibility" and all of that, but that's not what I am talking about—what I am referring to is the majorly stupid way in which the law recognises personal responsibility.

My thoughts were sparked by this extraordinary story, which I found via JuliaM.
A social worker who had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl in his care has avoided being sent to jail.

Eh? What? I thought that was supposed to be THE big no-no, surely?

Well, no, incredible as it seems, it wasn't having sex with her that got him into trouble. It was taking pictures:
Richard Superville, 51, of Ceylon Road, Westcliff, was caught out after explicit photographs of the teenager were found on his laptop, a court heard.

Although Superville had not broken the law by his affair—because the girl was 16—he had committed a criminal offence by taking pictures of her topless.

OK, let us leave aside the issue of "care"—for we must assume that the law that applies to teachers in this situation does not apply to social workers. What a surprise!—and just imagine that this is two people having a sexual relationship.

In that context, it should be obvious that the story outlined above is utterly insane—it's OK to fuck a 16 year old but not OK to take topless photographs of her? Barking. Naturally, this sparked off some thoughts about the utterly loony laws surrounding "ages of consent".

And yes, I meant "ages" because we have several. Let's have a look, shall we?
  • You must be 18 to: vote, sell naked pictures of your own body, buy cigarettes or buy alcohol (if you're lucky: I'm sick and tired of seeing signs proclaiming that such and such a place won't sell booze to anyone under 21. Or even 25).

  • You must be 16 to: leave school (until the Coalition arseholes bring in Educational Conscription), get a job, join the army (and be trained to fucking kill people), get married, bring up a child and to fuck (or be fucked).

  • You must be 10 to: be held responsible for a crime that you've committed (yes, yes, we all know that was brought in so that the politicians could appease those baying for the blood of the Bulger killers, but it wasn't much higher before—twelve, maybe?).

Now, can we please get this shit sorted out?

If you are responsible for crimes that you commit at the tender age of ten, then you should be responsible enough to do anything else, including buying booze and fucking people. If you aren't responsible enough to do those things with your own body, then you are not responsible enough to know that you've broken the law.

And if, at the age of sixteen, you are deemed responsible enough to fuck and be fucked, then you are most certainly responsible enough to know when you can allow your lover to take photos of your naked body. Damn it, if you want to earn money by selling pictures of your own body to whomever wants them: you are allowed to fuck and you're allowed to work—why the fuck shouldn't you be allowed to sell the pictures of you doing one or the other?

And if you are responsible enough to make love, and to get married, have a child and to hold down a job and get taxed on your bastard wages, then you are most certainly responsible enough to vote for the politicians who are stealing 50% of everything that you earn.

And yet these things are not put on the same level at all—and it's utterly insane. At what age are you responsible for yourself in law—is it 10, 16 or 18?

Successive governments—including the Coalition—quite obviously think that the age is 18: however, they have all lacked the balls to tell people that they cannot get married, they cannot get a job and they cannot screw each other at 16.

Personally, I think that the age of responsibility should be somewhere around the 16 mark—possibly lower. If there is a possibility that a crime has been committed—a very much older lover inveigling a young girl into sex, for instance—then that is for a court to decide.

Sticking with that theme, we could do what most other countries on the Continent do (and as Canada does), and make the law flexible dependent on the difference in ages between the two parties.

Whatever you personally think should happen, I personally think that a little consistency would be a really good idea—if only so that a man is not sent to jail for taking sexually-explicit photographs of the girl that he is perfectly legally allowed to have sex with.

15 comments:

Smoking Hot said...

l take it that you can't take pictures of your 16 yr old girlfriend on the sun-kissed beaches of Europe unless she's covered up then?

This country is run by total idiots.

Dick Puddlecote said...

"And yet these things are not put on the same level at all—and it's utterly insane. At what age are you responsible for yourself in law—is it 10, 16 or 18?"

At whichever age suits politicians and their chances at the ballot box, of course.

{whisper} There are still many who think that government makes laws for us, incredibly. :(

Richard said...

This case certainly shows up the law to be inconsistent. But the thinking behind it is a little more logical. As I unerstand it, the law on, shall we say, erotic pictures was always the same as the age of consent, i.e. 16. It was raised to 18 to limit the ambiguity around girls of 'just' 16 who looked much younger. It makes it a lot harder for the taker of the picture to claim that he thought the girl was 16 if she in fact has to be 18 by law. It's not ideal, and it throws up some daft examples like this one, but it's not as illogical as it appears at first sight.

To me, the pictures are irrelevant. Teacher, social worker or whoever, he was in a position of trust with a young and vulnerable person, and he shouldn't have taken advantage of it. That is what he should be done for (although, if reports I have read are correct, it was far more than just page 3-style topless shots).

Woman on a Raft said...

It was sorted out. The report is very poorly written but the relevant facts were:

The defendant was a key worker for the girl a few years before she was 16, who then moved on. At age 16 the girl "came looking for him" i.e. the court accepted that at that point there was no position of trust involved, otherwise it would have been Sexual Offences Act 2003 s.16-24 book throwing-time.

As it was, the court accepted the 16 year old had consented to the sex and the defendant could rely on that defence because no professional relationship existed between them.

What the defendant could not do was have KP of someone under the age of 18, because controversially, the law increased the age of consent for that. Him having previously known her is irrelevant for the purposes of the prosecution but presumably it was brought in for reasons the reporter doesn't make clear.

There were some flutters about who exactly was committing the offence here, but the offence is possession, not 'giving consent'. It could, theoretically, mean you can't have certain pictures of yourself i.e. can't rely on your own consent to yourself, or that a 16 year old would cause another person to unwittingly commit an offence if they mailed pictures over which the other person was not expecting and had not sought.

There's nothing inconsistent about delaying consent to permanent things. You can't get a tattoo under 18 years of age. A bad affair can be forgotten but a set of pictures will hang around even longer than the tattoo.

grahams said...

Not sure that consistency is all it is cracked up to be.
To be consistent and avoid anomalies, corporation tax should be the same in all EU countries.
To be consistent and avoid the "postcode lottery", health authorities should not be allowed to introduce advances that are not available nationwide.
Football pundits regularly abuse a referee for not being consistent in his rulings. Minutes later, another is castigated for applying laws "rigidly" instead of using "a bit of common sense".
Which is better?

JuliaM said...

Cheers for link!

"...(although, if reports I have read are correct, it was far more than just page 3-style topless shots)."

Indeed. A commenter notes that some of the shots found on his computer were level 4 (level 5 being the top).

Anonymous said...

grahams:

Incorrect analogy. We're only talking about one country here. Your analogy would make sense if the age of consent was say 18 in London and 16 in Kent.

thefrollickingmole said...

Here in Oz we have this idiocy.

http://www.news.com.au/national/high-school-kids-in-sexting-scandal/story-e6frfkvr-1225715231857

Kids sending pics and films of each other charged as sex offnenders, so far from what the intention of the laws are, but no-one says boo to it?

Joseph Takagi said...

Richard,

This case certainly shows up the law to be inconsistent. But the thinking behind it is a little more logical. As I unerstand it, the law on, shall we say, erotic pictures was always the same as the age of consent, i.e. 16. It was raised to 18 to limit the ambiguity around girls of 'just' 16 who looked much younger. It makes it a lot harder for the taker of the picture to claim that he thought the girl was 16 if she in fact has to be 18 by law. It's not ideal, and it throws up some daft examples like this one, but it's not as illogical as it appears at first sight.

If the purpose of the law is to protect children, then what bearing does how old they look have on whether they are capable of granting consent?

Surely what matters is whether the girl is emotionally and physically mature enough to make the decision?

David C said...

The law should recognise there is a difference between taking a picture and publishing it. And a difference between publishing a picture and looking at a picture. Can it be right that people are jailed for looking at photographs, however appalling they are? Not in my worldview.

David C said...

Here's another thought. Let's take it as a bad thing that the pictures were taken, and viewed by the person that took them. A single person. Thanks to this court case, the pictures must have been seen by dozens of people. So that's a much worse thing. Added to which I expect that the girl's friends and acquaintances know all about the whole business, but only because her former social worker was in court.
So the case makes the situation a whole lot worse.

ScienceGuy said...

Just to say that the age of criminal responsibility has been 10 for a lot longer than since the Bulger killing - I remember my primary school teacher talking about it when I was 9 (27 years ago)

Kevin Monk said...

It was pointed out to me on my 16th birthday that I was now legally allowed to have sex but not old enough to look at pornography.

It struck me as odd back then and it still does.

John the Manager said...

Bloody hell I finally agree with you on something

Bonnie said...

This is the least the court could do without involvement from her.
This man had groomed and abused the girl during his care. By the time the girl had realised what he had been doing, she was too damaged to relive her experience and go ahead with a statement and court proceedings.
He had put her through sadistic abuse, telling her it was love, something she would not have known about, and would have believed. Abuse of trust took a different, more dangerous level.
I hope the girl one day shares her true experience to clarify all your doubts as to why this man was charged, and to see that he is fully punished for his crimes.
There is more to this story than what meets the eye