Wednesday, March 03, 2010

How Would You Deal With This?

Two middle-aged men are side by side in the dock. Each has a care worker with him as both have learning difficulties. They have committed sexual offences against girls of 12 (I have to be careful here, but suffice it to say that no physical contact was involved, but rather crude and inapproriate sexual talk) that has obviously caused great fear and upset to the young victims. The defendants are quickly identified, and brought to court.

They are charged under Section 12(1)a and other sections of the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

This will have to go up to the Crown Court, of course. The victims will have been traumatised and will need careful care and counselling that is, in my experience, likely to be forthcoming.

So what do we, as a society, do with them? Their crime is awful for their young victims, and must have traumatised the girls' parents too. But they are, in the old and obsolete phrase, a bit simple. They need permanent support from their local authority, and they can live independently only with that support. So where do we start?

It won't be for me to decide, as a Circuit Judge will have that job, but how is he to balance the competing interests of public protection, concern for the victims, the need to treat those of limited mental capacity in a humane way, and the overriding law?

Any ideas?

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