Friday, 21 August 2015

State control of private behaviour

Traditionally, it has been considered a fundamental principle of the British justice system that the punishment should fit the crime. The continuing national paedophile hysteria has resulted in a significant undermining of this principle. A case in point is the 15 month prison sentence given to a 26 year old female music teacher for 'sexual activities' with a 15 year old girl pupil. Unusually, in such circumstances, the majority of readers commenting on the Daily Mail website, considered this sentence to be excessive. However, a significant minority supported it because of the breach of trust involved, that a man in a similar situation would have received an even longer sentence, and that children of this age are too emotionally immature to consent to sexual relations.

On the breach of trust this should be a matter between the school as employer and the employee. It should not be a matter for the State or its agencies since employers should be trusted to use their judgement, which should not be usurped by state bureaucrats and certainly not by the courts. In the event the school dismissed the teacher for breach of trust and this decision is proportionate to the offence given that the rules on this kind of behaviour would have been well known beforehand. Nevertheless, in taking this decision the school has lost an otherwise excellent music teacher, which will be to the detriment of pupils generally.

The critics are undoubtedly right that a man in the same circumstances would have received a longer sentence. However, the issue is whether it is appropriate for the State to regulate the private and personal conduct of its citizens in this way and then impose a punitive and disproportionate sentence without any evidence of harm caused, as has happened here. Many adolescent girls often have 'crushes' on older girls and teachers, and any physical intimacy that might ensue is likely to be completely harmless.

The question of whether younger teenagers are too emotionally immature to consent to sexual relations gets to the crux of the matter. They seem to have made their views on this fairly clear. According to many surveys, over a third of teenagers under the age of consent are 'sexually active' amounting to some 500,000 individuals. Given that it takes two to tango, this potentially amounts to nearly one million 'paedophiles' in our midst, as defined by some of the more zealous hardliners. Regrettably, their views coincide with the current orthodoxies of the criminal justice system and child protection industry. However, the authorities are happy to provide contraception to these same teenagers, and to compel them to attend explicit sex 'education' lessons.

One of the more puzzling fictions promoted by the tabloid media is that sexual relations for those over 16 are a fulfilling, liberating recreational activity, but for teenagers below that age it becomes a traumatic experience, requiring extensive counselling. Many European countries have an age of consent of 14 and Britain should follow suit, enabling the authorities to concentrate on the protection of genuine children, and allow young adults to take responsibility for their personal lives. As the 14 year old Helen Shapiro once said 'Don't treat me like a child'.

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