British Judge Takes Victim Shaming to New Level

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 8 2013 7:53 AM

British Judge Takes Victim Shaming to New Level: "The Girl Was Predatory and Was Egging You On"

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A statue of the scales of justice stands high above the Old Bailey on December 12, 2003 in London

Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images

Child victims advocates, women's rights campaigners, and pretty much anyone else even slightly like-minded are up in arms in Britain this week over a judge's decision to hand out an eight-month suspended sentence to a man who had sex with a 13-year-old girl. As lenient as that punishment may sound, the real outrage appears centered on the rationale used by both the prosecuting lawyer and the presiding judge in the sentencing of 41-year-old Neil Wilson, who was also found to be in possession of images of child abuse and bestiality. The Independent with the offending quotes from the judge (emphasis mine):

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Wilson was told by Judge Nigel Peters that he had taken account [of] the fact his child victim looked older during sentencing at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Monday.
He added: “You have come as close to prison as is imaginable. I have taken in to account that even though the girl was 13, the prosecution [says] she looked and behaved a little bit older…. On these facts, the girl was predatory and was egging you on…
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Sky News, meanwhile, has one of the original quotes from barrister Robert Colover, who was representing the Crown Prosecution Service, the government agency in charge of prosecuting crimes in England and Wales: "The girl is predatory in all her actions and she is sexually experienced," he reportedly told the court.

Once word began to spread this week about exactly how the sentencing played out, it didn't take long for the outcry to begin. One online petition demanding that CPS investigate the language used by Colover attracted more than 30,000 signatures in little more than a day, according to the Guardian. By Thursday, the CWS had publicly acknowledged that Colover's comments were inappropriate and said they would keep the barrister from taking part in any future sex-abuse cases until the matter is reviewed. The Office for Judicial Complaints, meanwhile, will examine the comments made by the judge, and the attorney general will review the sentence and decide whether it should be appealed.

Even Prime Minister David Cameron felt necessary to weigh in, releasing a statement that said the CPS was "absolutely right" to say that Colover's comments were inappropriate. "The victims should always be at the centre of our thinking and I'm pleased the CPS have made that statement and I'm also pleased that the attorney general has said that he is personally going to look into this case," Cameron said.

Elsewhere, ITV has a rundown on a whole host of other controversial comments made by British judges presiding over sex cases in the past two decades, including one judge's description of an 8-year-old victim of attempted rape as "not entirely an angel herself." The judge sentenced the girl’s attacker to two years probation.

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