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Suspended Sentences For Rapists!

Posted on 28th October 2016

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I was really incensed by this story from the BBC. Almost every paragraph of the report contains something that is outrageous and unacceptable.

Three juveniles (aged 14, 16, and 17) were given suspended sentences by a court in Hamburg, Germany, for the rape of a 14 year-old girl. The 21 year-old who also took part in the rape was given a mere 4 years jail sentence. The victim was left lying on the ground in sub-zero temperatures, and was hypothermic when found; she was rushed to intensive care, and is lucky to still be alive.

The issues that I have with this case include:

  • Why weren't the perpetrators charged with attempted murder, given that their intention seemed to be for her to die?
  • The judge's reason for giving such light sentences was that the rapists had shown remorse. It is notoriously difficult to tell if professed remorse is genuine, and it should really be backed up by a psychologist's report, but there is no mention of any such report, and I suspect there was none; bear in mind that many German courts have no jury, and decisions about guilt and sentencing are often made by just the judge (or a panel of three judges). Even so, the crime was far too serious and violent for suspended sentences to be appropriate, even for truly remorseful offenders.
  • There is no mention of charges or punishment for the rapists' accomplice: the girl who filmed the rape. She also deserves at least some punishment.

The case has rightly sparked public outrage in Germany, and a petition is being raised, and has collected almost 90,000 signatures in the space of a week. The prosecution has also appealed the sentences.

There is mention of the recent (July 2016) change in the rape law on Germany. Before the latest amendment, rape was only deemed to have occurred if the victim had physically defended themselves, meaning that rapes of unconscious (due to alcohol, drugs or other reasons) or seriously physically disabled people were not prosecuted. Thank goodness that the law is now more in line with internationally recognised standards.

There is also a passing reference to a case earlier this year in the USA, where Brock Turner, a 20 year-old student, received a four month sentence for assaulting an unconscious woman. Brock Turner's father stated that his son should not be jailed for "20 minutes of action". What a bizarre argument. How long it took has no relationship to the seriousness of the crime. It is, for example, possible to murder someone in a mere 2 seconds, and to steal someone's life-savings in a few minutes.