July 17, 2007

On Law

From BBC NEWS | UK: Convicted rapist at Labour event
A convicted rapist attended a Labour Party fund-raiser held by Gordon Brown, BBC Two's Newsnight has revealed.

Tycoon Owen Oyston, jailed in 1996 for raping a 16-year-old girl, is believed to have paid £10,000 for a table at the Wembley Stadium event.

The prime minister has asked party officials to investigate and said no money should be accepted from him.
At the risk of being controversial – and without wanting to suggest, obviously, that rape is in any way okay – I do wonder what an eleven-year-old conviction (for which jail time has been served) has to do with party finances.

First of all, what do we think he served three and a half years for? Okay, sure, criminological literature is full of evidence about how jail time isn't usually particularly reformative – but if we're going to continue to act as if locking people up is an appropriate way to deal with crime, let's not be half-assed about it. If someone goes to jail, serves time, and is released on a High Court appeal, shouldn't we consider that person absolved? A judge has clearly said as much, and by definition it's pretty much his or her call. It doesn't seem very much like justice to punish someone according to the arbitrary law our culture has deemed appropriate, and then continue to punish them even after they've served their sentence.

Second of all, what are the Labour Party that worried about? I mean, Christ, like they think the millions of people who vote, support and/or contribute to the party already are unsullied saints, each and every one? For heaven's sake, we've just spent years being bored by the Cash-For-Honours scandal. Considering how many sex crimes are committed in this country, I'd be very surprised if some of the perps didn't have connections to the Labour Party (and the Conservative Party, and the rest). Taking money from a convicted rapist doesn't make you a rapist.

And third of all, following Oyston's original conviction, he was ordered to pay court costs of £100,000, which were taxed and the proceeds given, natch, to the government. Now, of course, there is a difference between tax money going into public coffers and donations going to the party's own funds, but I think on principle we have to accept that convicted criminals can (and do) still contribute other things to society – especially after they've been released. It may not be a particularly pleasant truth, sure, but knee-jerk reactions aren't terribly helpful in dealing with it.

Besides, you'd think that this would be a little more embarrassing for Labour:

From BBC News | Politics: Tory candidate at Labour dinner
A Conservative candidate in a west London by-election recently attended a fundraising event for the Labour Party and was photographed with Tony Blair.

Tony Lit, standing for MP for Ealing Southall, was head of Asian radio station Sunrise at the time. Sunrise donated £4,800 to Labour at the event.
That money, though, hasn't been refused. Come on Gordon Brown: if you're going to refuse money from people on ideological grounds, surely a member of the political party to which you are ideologically opposed shouldn't be allowed to donate, either?

So, anyway, my point is this: though rape is an horrific act and rapists most certainly deserve to be punished, I think it is contrary to the basic tenets of justice to proclaim what a suitable punishment should be, administer that punishment, and then continue to punish the person beyond what was originally deemed appropriate. If we really think, as a society, that rapists should never be allowed to contribute anything positive ever again (and, to be honest, I wouldn't totally disagree with that), then what's the point of letting them out of prison at all?

No comments:

Post a Comment