Friday, September 18, 2015

There must be one law for all victims, regardless of race

Jamal Muhammed Raheem Ul Nasir was jailed for a total of seven years at Leeds crown court in December last year for his attacks on two children. He was convicted of two counts of sexual assault on a child under 13 and four counts of sexual activity with a child.

I am pleased that he was refused leave to appeal against the severity of this sentence. I suspect that if you asked the British public 90% of them would say it was far too lenient, and although it is a good thing that we have sentencing in this country by the courts and not the mob, many fathers in this country and of all races will be thinking "If my daughter had been one of his victims I would have regarded any sentence short of hanging as too lenient."

However, I am very concerned indeed about the wording of some of the comments made by the trial judge and the way the court of appeal decision is being reported.

The trial judge appears to have said that the fact the victims were Asian had been factored in as an “aggravating feature” when passing sentence, adding that the victims and their families had suffered particular shame in their communities because of what they had endured. There were also cultural concerns that the girls’ future prospects of being regarded as a good candidate for arranged marriages could be damaged.

The appeal court judge dismissed the suggestion that the defendant had been given a more severe sentence because of his own ethnic origin, but did not explicitly dismiss the suggestion that the community the victims belonged to could be a factor in the situation.

Mark Fenhalls QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said that the Sentencing Council’s guidelines require judges to consider, as a priority, the seriousness of the psychological and physical harm suffered by the victim.

He said: “The justice system does not look to favour one section of the community over another. The judgment reflects the duty of judges to take proper account of the extent of the harm suffered by individual complainants when deciding on the appropriate length of sentence in each case.”

Exactly, and therefore consideration of shame caused to a victim or their family should also have been taken into account for a victim of any other ethnicity, a point which should have been made.

Other things being equal, the sentence should not reflect the skin colour or race of the victims.

As an NSPCC spokesman said, any sentence should not depend on cultural background.

“British justice should operate on a level playing field and children need to be protected irrespective of cultural differences.”

“Regardless of race, religion, or gender, every child deserves the right to be safe and protected from sexual abuse, and the courts must reflect this. It is vital that those who commit these hideous crimes are punished to the full limit of the law.”

Do we really want to send paedophiles and rapists the signal that if they pick a victim of any one particular race, they will be treated more leniently?

Surely not, whether the race concerned is white, black, asian or anything else, but unfortunately, that is precisely the message which newspaper coverage of this case has sent.

If, as I hope is the case, the courts did not mean to send that message, then perhaps more needs to be done to get over to victims that, whatever the colour of their skin, they should come forward and to potential paedophiles that whoever they are, anyone who harms a child will be caught, brought before a court, and severely punished.

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