Monday, February 05, 2007

We Are Your Friends: Justice vs Clark

The Australian's February 2 editorial, on former ATSIC chairman Geoff Clark's sort-of kind-of rape conviction (like O.J. Simpson, he has been forced to pay damages, but incurs no jail term or actual conviction-of-crime, as I understand it), is a good one. I don't know if Clark is a rapist, and most likely there are very few people other than Ms Carol Stingel and Clark himself who do.

But the jury has spoken and that must stand. These cases are horrible: I feel inclined to defend both sides. It is utterly humiliating for a rape victim, man or woman - though, obviously, most often woman - to have to stand in front of a court room - in front of anyone - and detail the heinous acts committed against them. But it is necessary. Even at that point it is near-impossible to tell the truth of each side; in a very real sense that court witnessed a "his word or her word" exercise in finger-pointing. If, as the jury decided, her claim was correct, then justice was done. It is, however, a terrible reality that Stingel had to endure such a process to get to that point of justice.

On the other hand, it is certain that false accusations - for whatever reason - exist. This is equally horrid. A false accusation can tarnish a person's reputation for life, as unfair as that might be. But if we are to ever change that perception, it will not be preventing accusations from being made, but rather by ever more thoroughly seeing such accusations through. The more faith we put in the legal system, its constituents and its purveyors, the more likely we are able to see that faith delivered in fair and (hopefully) agreeable verdicts.

These proceedings are a must: if society ever wishes to protect itself from such crimes then the opportunity to bring criminals to justice must exist. Courts these days are not the witch-hunts of Salem. As much as Clark wishes to express that the ruling was "the lowest point in the history of this country," he is incorrect. Right or wrong - and one must suspect right - the verdict was based on the deliberation of a fair and unbiased jury. If Clark wishes to attack the system, he can. But he better have something to back himself up.