Judge’s Comment Spark Calls for Specialists in Crimes of Sexual Violence

Dr Kim McGregor, Executive Director of Rape Prevention Education Whakatu Mauri is concerned about comments from Judge Mark Perkins today. Judge Perkins commented that the sentence he gives next Friday to the comedian who admitted sexually assaulting his 4 year old daughter is to be based on “an argument that the [psychological] effect on the child of the offending is a result not of the offending itself but the actual breakup of the family”.

Such comments suggest that the Court has not accessed any of the many experts in the country who would be able to provide robust researched evidence of the common effects of sexual assaults on children. According to a victim impact statement the child felt some responsibility for the incident and had developed “a strong sense of doubt about her own self-worth ”.

McGregor says she is also “concerned that the Judge is unaware of the critical need for specialist treatment for all those who have committed sexual assaults on children. “ She says “The Judge’s lack of specialist knowledge about the effects and dynamics of sexual assaults on vulnerable children provides further support to the Law Commission’s recommendations for the need for specialist courts and specialist trained judges to deal with crimes of sexual violence”.

“Unless we have all crimes of sexual violence handled by specialist trained personnel in the criminal justice system, we risk those who commit sexual crimes having no specialist treatment or appropriate safety plans put in place. That means that our children and our communities continue to be vulnerable.”

McGregor was pleased that in the High Court decision in April this year, Justice Gilbert had agreed with Crown submissions that the consequences of a conviction against the comedian did not outweigh the offending, and the fact he was drunk should not have been a factor in the original decision of a discharge without conviction by Auckland District Court Judge Philippa Cunningham last year.