News Flash

// 7 November 2008

BONG

Man defends other men’s right to not get long punishment for murdering partners/women if they show autonomous sexual behaviour.

Apparently changes in the law which remove the “provocation” defence of infedelity ignores the impact of sexual betrayal on men according to the (male) Lord Chief Justice. Odd that seemingly affects just men, not all partners who are cheated, on but then I guess there is less issue because women don’t tend to murder their unfaithful partners in the same numbers.

Absurdly the Independent compared men who kill because their partners had sex with someone else to women who kill after years of abuse. Dear Robert Verkaik (who wrote that) this is an apple and this is a pear. The difference between a “battered spouse” defence and a “nagging or shagging defence” is massive.

The proposal is that men who kill for “crimes of passion” (for which read the woman refused to capitulate to his whim and presumed patriarchal privileges) would actually be tried for their real crime – murder. Amazing how controversial that piece of small logic is. You know the one that says all people including men should stand trial for the crime they commit. Just as how saying all people who experience years of abuse before murdering a partner out of fear should have the right to at least a partial defence of prior abuse, fear and threat to their life (where the abuse constitutes such).

Instead the Lord Chief Justice has decided it is too harsh to expect men to be held accountable for their crimes like women are.

Lord Phillips said: “I must confess to being uneasy about a law which so diminishes the significance of sexual infidelity as expressly to exclude it from even the possibility of amounting to provocation…As far as not letting men off lightly is concerned, I have some difficulty with this proposition. The current law requires provocation to be conduct that would cause a reasonable man to act as the defendant acted. “

Here’s the translation – women who break patriarchal norms such as exclusive sexual contact should expect to be killed and it’s unfair to blame the man for that. Oh and the idea men don’t get let off lightly under “provocation” or similar defences – well six years for a five hour beating with a dog chain which resulted in Sonya Todd’s death, three years for murder, dismemberment and freezing the body of Tae Hui and seven years for the repeated stabbing of Madeline Hulmes despite her teenage daughter trying to remove the knife from the killer, Les Humes, hands. The “any reasonable man” claim made here is nonsense on two levels – 1. there are plenty of men who experience partner infidelity and don’t murder them and 2. whether others may do it is a legal test which ignores whether it is just to be lenient on murder on these grounds.

The impact of the provocation (described by some as the “nagging and shagging”) defence was well laid out by Harriet Harman in a speech in 2003 at the Women’s Library:

We should find a better alternative to provocation. My concern is that the effect of the provocation defence is that:

  • The victim is blamed for own death
  • Responsibility for the offence falls not on him but on her
  • Her relatives are left distraught – as they suffer not only the loss of their daughter or sister but also the denigration of her reputation which is a necessary part of a provocation defence.
  • And although manslaughter carries a maximum of life imprisonment sentences for domestic homicide generally do not reflect the seriousness of taking another’s life in a violent act.

Oh and this was by the same man who recently reduced the sentences of some of the youths who stomped to death a young woman because she “looked different”. So that’s social awareness in the judiciary for you.

BONG

Elite, white, male institution defends right to employ man who accessed child porn and shows no repentence.

The bland BBC story hides a much more unpalatable truth. Nicholas Hammond’s defence was that he hadn’t intended to view the pictures of two day old babies being abused, just the ones of teenage boys. Apparently this makes it OK. They both appeared in his “collection” of over 1,500 obscene images of children.

Cambridge University has confirmed that Dr Nicholas Hammond, who is currently on paid “special” leave will return in April probably remaining a fellow of Gonville and Caius College but he may lose his position as Director of Studies of modern languages, some academics might see this as a reward as it’ll lessen his administrative duties and give him more time for…..well lets not think about that shall we….

Kidscape have condemned the news saying “The punishment here does not fit the crime. We would expect a signal from such an august body that they are with the victims.” and “They are completely out of touch, considering the public feeling and outrage about these types of cases. You can’t help feeling that if this was an unemployed Joe Bloggs who had this nasty habit he would not get the same treatment.”

Hammond was sentenced to two year suspended sentence, a two year supervision order and £1,000 fine as well as signing the sex offenders register in September after

The judge presiding, Gareth Hawkesworth, who is also a Cambridge graduate, claimed Hammond was:

a sorely damaged individual who could be rehabilitated. “During this period you were suffering from moderate depression and you were seeking refuge from life in a halcyon part of your youth, relived by looking at low-level images of boys, often in swimming clothes. But viewing this material can become addictive and if you had not been interrupted there would have been a serious risk that your voyeurism may have turned into action.”

Not sure how Hawkesworth can claim “low level images” of over 30 category five pictures including those of babies and over 150 at category four. Nor that “moderate depression” is justification for this when, lets face it, defendants who aren’t white, middle class and fellows at the same University as the judge wouldn’t face such leniency. As Michelle Elliot, from Kidscape has said:

It would seem that the awful abuse these children suffered is not very important if you’re somebody as grand as a Cambridge professor. Had he been an ordinary working man he would have been sent straight to prison. The message is that he is somehow above the law as a professor.”

Prosecutor Sally Hickling said the images, found on two laptops and a memory stick during a police raid on Hammond’s home, were predominately of male babies aged between two days and six months. Hammond’s lawyer David Fisher said there was no suggestion Hammond had acted on his urges. He said: “My client has never had sexual contact with children or students.”

You see the thing here is that Hammond didn’t need to sexually abuse children himself – he had others do it for him and produce pictures. Just because he didn’t do it doesn’t mean he’s not guilty of their abuse – he’s the consumer the demand for such materials meets.

BONG

Woman forced to step down from job as local Councillor because she was a strippergram and phone sex worker.. Apparently people working in the sex industry don’t deserve representation or to be treated as everyday members of society. Maybe that’s why Jeremy Clarkson thought it funny to joke about the Ipswich murders and seems to have got away with it despite at least one MP calling for his dismissal. The “joke” in question was this (as Clarkson was driving a lorry):

“This is a hard job. I’m not just saying that to win favour with lorry drivers. It’s a hard job. Change gear, change gear, change gear, check mirror, murder a prostitute, change gear.”

The tabloids rushed to Clarkson’s defence, as did the CEO of one of the biggest trucking organisations Eddie Stobart who said

CEO Andrew Tinkler said: “They were just having a laugh. It’s the 21st century, let’s get our sense of humour in line.”

Now am I the only one to notice that actually we should be asking women in the sex industry whether they object to their murders being “a laugh” and not truck drivers? Oh and Eddie Stobart’s email address is here for those who want to complain.

EDIT: Just adding this article by the Councillor in question where she talks about the issues involved in her decision to resign.

Comments From You

Fran // Posted 7 November 2008 at 10:39 am

Unfortunately I know some people who are actually offended that sex workers should DARE criticise Clarkson. Someone even said “how can they claim the moral high ground, given what they do?” Sex workers having an opinion on people joking about their deaths – outrageous!

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 7 November 2008 at 11:56 am

Putting it all in perspective all of the above succinctly shows the issue is once again of male privilege and male rights always superceding women’s rights. Why else did Lord Chief Justice Phillips claim the proposed changes to ‘provocation’ would be discriminatory to men who murder their female partners/ex female partners. Because men are entitled to ‘punish women’ who deviate from male sexual control and male ownership. But women who murder violent abusive male partners are apparently abusing male power and male sexual privilege so these women must be punished.

Same applies to man who was convicted of owning child porn because owning images of children and babies being subjected to male sexual violence is not the same thing as apparently committing these acts. Oh the clever ways men who view these images justify their ‘rights’ because they are apparently not complicit. Also, other men band together to claim it is all men’s rights to view/commit such crimes because challenging this right is apparently discrimination against men. See how feminist arguments are used against us. It is women who continue to be subordinated and discriminated not men.

We mustn’t say owning such images is complicity because if men did not download or view these images then demand would cease. Simple is it not – put accountability where it belongs, with men who view these images and also men who commit these crimes. No? Why not? Because men must have the right to view such images of course. We can forget about women’s and children’s right not to be subjected to male sexual violence for male entertainment and male profit.

The excuses being used are all examples of how male privilege must never be challenged but instead is excused, minimalised or simply ignored. This is why we need feminism because feminists refuse to accept male power and male-centered laws.

Anne Onne // Posted 7 November 2008 at 12:40 pm

Right on.

A cheated-on partner killing their partner is NOT the same thing as an abuse victim killing their abuser.

For a start, people who are cheated on aren’t in fear of their lives. There aren’t huge bodies of evidence suggesting that their partner is likely to hunt them down if they leave, and stalk, injure or kill them. They don’t need to live in fear of their lives whilst they are at home. Their partner won’t threaten to harm their children, nor would be likely to do so.

Seriously, I don’t believe in provocation as a defense for murder. If these men can avoid killing their bosses when they get sacked, or killing their mates or parents when they have an argument, they can avoid killing their wives or girlfriends. When people are angy, it’s not that they have no control over their actions, it’s that the inhibition they normally feel is reduced, so they don’t care if they do something, because they’re so mad they don’t care about the consequences. The greater the consequences, the less likely they are to do something regrettable (I guess that’s why people don’t go killing colleagues or anyone else who has severely betrayed them, no matter how angry they are, in anywhere near the same numbers. Since men as a group seem to have a particular problem with not being inhibited enough to stop them killing their partners, perhaps there need to be more severe consequences for their actions. It’s funny that this is the only case in which people usually falling over themselves about punishments and deterrents suddenly think it’s unfair.

This also ties back to men feeling they own their female partners. Why else would many more men kill than women in these scenarios? Women who are cheated on aren’t less upset, but they’ve not been brought up to feel the same level of ownership, or that they are entitled to take the same steps. Women grow up much more worried about what the consequences will be because the patriarchy doesn’t give them an easy ride.

Abused partners (mostly women) have constant fear to deal with,so I really don’t see why people see it as cold and premeditated, if one is in constant danger. We’re talking about people who are likely to hunt down the woman if she leaves, hold the kids (if there are any) hostage, try to take them off her and likely abuse them too, and who will probably try to kill her if she leaves. We do not have enough shelters for victims of abuse, nor do we have anywhere near enough support that we can say every abused partner has recourse that means that they will be able to get away safe and stay safe. Given this reality, and given the frequency which abusers kill their victims, I don’t see this as anything other than self-defence. It’s not common, and I don’t see women tripping over themselves to pretend their partner was abusing them so that they can kill him.

And I’m speechless on the child porn front. Just wow. So much work defending all these abusers.

Kathy // Posted 7 November 2008 at 5:35 pm

And to add to everything said above about the “provocation” defence: is it me or does the Lord Chief Justice seem to imply that men are such slaves to their sexual urges and their need to control territory that, when they feel threatened with infidelity, they cannot be _absolutely_ expected to control themselves enough not to murder people? Oh lovely, more dehumanising stereotyping. Don’t know about others, but I’m fairly sure most men I know would be rather offended by this assumption.

Kath // Posted 8 November 2008 at 11:46 am

I agree with almost everything that has been posted here except I do not believe that Dr Hammond should lose his job. It may well be that his sentence was lenient but if so then the judge is at fault. There is no reason why a convicted paedophile should not be able to do any job that does not involve contact with children.

Catherine // Posted 10 November 2008 at 12:08 am

Wow. Amazing to have a comment implying that “people working in the sex industry … deserve representation or to be treated as everyday members of society.” on the F Word – I’ve stopped coming here due to the hostile, esclusionary and objectifying attidudes usually demonstrated towards sex workers. Hopefully this means feminists including F Word writers will recognise _all_ women’s right to self determination and sexual choice – not just some.

Siany // Posted 13 November 2008 at 11:53 pm

I just read the Independent article and found (almost) the most bizarre aspect of it was the “case law” section at the end. Why would an article about whether or not it is acceptable for men to claim provocation when murdering allegedly unfaithful women end with a list of cases of women who killed men in self defence?

Where are the examples of murder that are justified by provocation? Surely these would prove beyond doubt that Harriet Harmon is being very unfair, not to mention pushing a “feminist agenda” (loved that bit!). Where are these poor, betrayed, heartbroken male victims of callous, fickle, faithless women? Would a list of dead women perhaps give pause to us readers asked to empathise with mysogynistic murderers?

I have a problem with the whole “man in the street” philosophy of law anyway, since oftentimes the “woman on the street” may well have a different measure of what is reasonable. Even so, how many reasonable men do you know who would think it was ok to commit murder over infidelity? If every betrayed husband/wife killed their unfaithful wife/husband we wouldn’t need to worry about overpopulation…

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds