Heroes, or heroines, do not come much more improbable than lawyer Barbara Hewson. Who would have thought that this champion of women’s rights, with a reputation to protect as a successful, high-profile advocate in leading cases, would suddenly throw caution to the winds and call very publicly for the age of consent to be lowered to 13, as she has done this week?
It’s a British story, and it has been all over the media here, replete with predictable reactions, including “shock” at the large London law firm where she is one of many barristers, who are all self-employed members of the “chambers”, or law practice team. It all kicked off with an article by Hewson in the lively libertarian online journal Spiked, to which sociologist Frank Furedi is a regular contributor: see After Savile: Policing as entertainment, mentioned here recently.
Hewson’s article, like Furedi’s, arose from the Savile “scandal” last year and Operation Yewtree, the massive police attention to “historic” so-called child sexual abuse that has been going on ever since, with seemingly almost daily arrests, especially of aging celebrities such as the entertainer Rolf Harris, the former pop star Gary Glitter, the DJ Dave Lee Travis, the comedian Jim Davidson and the PR guru Max Clifford, all of whom deny any offence. TV legend Stuart Hall, by contrast, recently pleaded guilty to offences which Hewson, with an admirable sense of perspective, dismissed as “low-level misdemeanors” involving teenagers.
She began her article in a starkly combative fashion:
I do not support the persecution of old men. The manipulation of the rule of law by the Savile Inquisition – otherwise known as Operation Yewtree – and its attendant zealots poses a far graver threat to society than anything Jimmy Savile ever did.
She goes on to compare the present moral panic with the one in Victorian England which led to the age of consent being raised from 13 to 16 in 1885. Turning to the present scene, she says the so-called abuse relates to relatively trivial matters routinely exaggerated by pressure groups such as the NSPCC. The NSPCC and the Metropolitan Police Force, as reported here at Heretic TOC, produced a joint report into Savile’s alleged offending in January, called Giving Victims a Voice. It was noted here that this report outrageously treated the allegations as proven facts. Now Hewson lends the considerable authority of her legal standing to this point:
Note how the police and NSPCC assume the roles of judge and jury. What neither acknowledges is that this national trawl for historical victims was an open invitation to all manner of folk to reinterpret their experience of the past as one of victimization.
Quite. She says that the acute problem of proof which stale allegations entail also generates a demand that criminal courts should afford accusers therapy, by giving them “a voice”’, an infantilizing function that undermines judicial impartiality and fair hearings.
Hewson concludes with a trio of proposed law reforms: remove complainant anonymity; introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions; and reduce the age of consent to 13.
Typifying the mainstream media response, the Daily Telegraph ran a column by another lawyer, Malcolm Underhill. Regarding the proposed age of consent reform, he wrote:
This suggestion must rate as one of the most foolish proposals on the issue of child welfare that has been laid before the public. If the proposal is adopted by Government, such a change would be a green light for paedophiles, sending the completely wrong message.
I love the “If the proposal is adopted by Government” bit, don’t you? Ha! We should be so lucky! Alas, one maverick lawyer’s speech does not a government policy make. But it’s a start. Meanwhile, the reality is that the craziness in the UK goes on, and is getting worse by the day. Remember, this from If cardinal sinners and lordly lotharios float your boat… , a Heretic TOC blog in March?
… can it really be…yes, it’s one of the nation’s favourite TV soap opera stars, charged with “child rape”. Plus one, two – no it’s three – God it’s gone up to four; bloody hell it’s FIVE musical maestros from one of the most famous music academies in the land: all of them facing the music for vilely fiddling with their violin students!
Guess what the figure is now for those music teachers? I was shocked by five of them being in trouble. Well now (or at the latest count), there are thirty nine, yes, THIRTY NINE, music teachers under investigation at that academy, Chetham’s school of music, plus one other, the Royal Northern College of Music, both in Manchester.
Enough already! Enough of this lunacy for one day!
Enough, too, in a way, for Heretic TOC, who now finds himself obliged to make an unwelcome but very necessary announcement. I love writing this blog and if I had the time I would gladly post a thousand words or more every day rather than roughly twice a week, which has been the usual rate since this “not the dominant narrative” started just over six months ago. Sadly, though, my time is coming under more and more pressure. I have a variety of other projects in hand which are too frequently being left on the back burner. This cannot go on. Accordingly, I have decided to post only once per week, or possibly only twice per month, from now on. This might even be a relief for readers struggling to keep abreast of all this heresy! With posts becoming somewhat less regular, though, it will become harder to know when a new post has arrived. Accordingly, for the benefit of those who have not already done so, I would suggest becoming a “follower” of the blog, so that you get an email each time a new piece is posted. All you need to do is press the “Follow” button in the brown bar across the very top of the page, just to the right of where it says Heretic TOC.