One small step for a man…

Well, it’s finally happened. After countless ridiculous comments left in livejournals over the past few years with the monkier ‘spartacus’ from a long dead in-joke, I eventually signed up for a livejournal. That’s right. I’m selling out, giving in to the man, taking the path of least resistance, working the corporate machine, I’m a dirty consumer whore. I was tossing up the ins and outs of going to the trouble of writing my own journal management script for my mind-numbing ramblings over the past 3 years, and then I thought “Why not be a bum and just use someone elses!” So with complete disrespect for my computer science heritage which is wretched with the concept of writing things from scratch for no apparent reason, I’m here on a livejournal account. Oh how the mighty have failed to get off their slack ass.

The reason I chose today of all the days in all the world to do such a thing, is mainly because I’m feeling really weird. Most of today was fine, I’d go so far as to say quite enjoyable even. Then I was boiling the kettle to make a cup of molten go-juice charged with many a freeze-dried granule and thought I’d read the paper to kill the ninety seconds or so I had to wait. Not particularly interested in reading more about the ongoing trial of a terrorist bomber, I flicked over to page three of The West Australian and found myself looking at this:

Man freed over sex with girl, 13

A MAN aged 20 has won his release from jail after he convinced the State’s highest appeal court he should get a lesser term mainly because the 13-year-old girl he had sex with gave her consent. [G] was jailed for three years in December after pleading guilty to four counts of sexually penetrating a child aged between 13 and 16 and two of indecently dealing with her.

But a Court of Criminal Appeal judgment released this week revealed Justices Michael Murray, Anthony Templeman and Christine Wheeler ordered the jail term be suspended in April.

Justice Wheeler said consent was not an issue in the commission of the offence but could be considered at sentencing, including whether efforts were made to gain consent.

“The appellant clearly had a number of substantial mitigating factors in his favour,” she said.

“His plea of guilty was prompt and his remorse apparently genuine. His prior character was apparently very good. His risk of reoffending was low.

“The offences contained no elements of perversion or deviance. Importantly . . . it does not appear to me there is any suggestion of premeditation or calculation or any overbearing of the will of the complainant, even by an attempt at persuasion.”

It was clear [G] did not make lengthy attempts to persuade the girl to have sex with him. He had not pressured, blackmailed or forced her.

The judgment said [G] met the girl, who told him she was 13, at the York Show. They discussed sex that night and had sex in [G]’s car.

Justice Wheeler referred to the case of a man who met a girl on the internet and gradually introduced her to sex over several meetings. “There was not that element of grooming behaviour,” she said.

Rather it appeared to be a purely opportunistic offence over a short period and lacking real premeditation.

She said the encounter was undoubtedly one the girl regretted and [G] accepted should not have occurred.

Defence lawyer Gail Archer had argued that [G]’s case was substantially different to the internet case.

Justice Wheeler also referred to a 1992 Parliamentary speech in which then-attorney-general Joe Berinson said amendments to the WA Criminal Code were only to target sexual activity with an element of abuse.

“That, it seems to me, is a concept of considerable importance in relation to sentencing,” she said. “The greater the element of abuse, as evidenced by matters such as disparity in age, or the use of force, or other types of pressure, or by corruption of a child, the greater the culpability.”

Generally, I’d just be cynical and mostly condescendingly dismissive of the whole thing, think up some creative vulgar term for a guy (just about) my age who was convicted of four counts of penetrating a 13 year old girl and go on my merry way.

This time was different though, for the most part because of the simple fact that [G] was one of my childhood friends. I knew him from when we moved to York when I was 10 until we left when I was 13. I played basketball with him, I hung out with him with my friends, he was in my classes at school, he came to my house, I traded cards with him. Hell, he helped me out in a fight I got into the first week I was at that school (with another guy I ended up being friends with).

I just feel completely weird. It’s really, really strange. I don’t blink when I read about guys in my high school classes going to jail for breaking and entering and grand theft auto, anyone could do that. Another friend of mine from York had his brain neatly separated into two along the horizontal axis by a sheet of broken glass when he was in a car accident, and while I was sad, it didn’t phase me this much. I mean everybody you know dies. Not so many of your friends go for thirteen year olds when they’re almost 21. It’s creepy you know? When you’re the same age as someone, in the same place in the same kind of circumstances, you’re almost like a split in reality. You’re a number of different ways the same kind of life could go. Not literally of course, but there’s that kind of feeling you get. Things you could’ve done, ways you could have gone… and one of these friends I shared a moment in time with was still in that tiny rural town, and went to jail for something I can’t comprehend.

I don’t know what to think about that.

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