Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Home News Reader's Comment of the Day: We should avoid trial by social media

Reader’s Comment of the Day: We should avoid trial by social media

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In response to Belinda Brown: The Adam Johnson case. We don’t send 17-year-old boys to jail for kissing 15-year-old girls, Stephen T wrote:

Belinda, well done on bringing some balance into the reporting of this case.

However, the victim was both legally and morally a child. I certainly regarded my fifteen-year-old daughter as a child, but I also brought her up to show some sense and take some responsibility for her actions. We use age to draw a legal line to protect children and it’s right that we do so. The girl had just gone fifteen when Johnson began the ‘relationship’. It was not a momentary lapse on his part – he sent over 800 texts over three months. Yes, this was grooming.

Johnson’s behaviour was stupid and exploitative over a prolonged period. But is six years a fair sentence? Absolutely not. It’s hard to feel sympathy for Johnson, but hardened criminals don’t often get six years for violent crime.
I see this as part of the post Savile hysteria where we can include rape and touching or kissing in the same category. Both wrong and both offences but of a different order entirely.

In a normal case, the fact that Johnson has lost his job and a lucrative income would have been seen as a substantial part of his punishment. He’s lost his relationship and his reputation. It’s unlikely that any professional club would ever employ him again. This is all fair enough, but it is a substantial punishment for offences that appear to be very much at the lower end of the scale. I would have added twelve months in prison. No more.

I believe a woman who’d committed the same offence would be in the pub tonight. There is just astonishing double standards on this, as your example of Caroline Berriman shows. She had sex 50 – 80 times with a fifteen-year-old boy, got pregnant and was initially given a community sentence – changed to a two-year sentence only on appeal.

Johnson’s victim was hurt far more by social media and publicity than by Johnson’s actual actions, which were wrong but not forced. Sentence aside, after reading The Sunday Times report by David Walsh, I have far more sympathy for footballer Chad Evans, convicted of rape, on evidence that appeared shockingly inadequate. I await his appeal with interest.

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