Anthony McIntyre comments on the unfairness in how the law is applied in Ireland.
During the week a teacher was jailed at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for a year. An additional two years of her three year sentence were suspended. Her crime - defilement of a student who was 16 at the time she had sex with him, while she was 23. She was said by the judge to be naïve despite her behaviour being “completely unethical and immoral.”
She was arrested at Dublin Airport a year ago after the boy’s mother had lodged a complaint with An Garda. The mother was not wrong. As a consequence of widespread clerical abuse, mandatory reporting of this type of inappropriate behaviour left her no choice. Had the case not come to court, few would ever have heard of it.
That's the law but it is not always just nor fair in its application. Not arrested during the week or any other week was a considerably older woman who has screwed more than a pupil. Instead of appearing in court she was attending a meeting in Dún Laoghaire. Maria Bailey, a crook, was seeking reselection as a parliamentary candidate to represent Fine Gael in the constituency in the next general election. While her bid is anything but plain sailing - her constituency association hugely displeased with her - that she has the brass neck to try to "swing" the vote her way is insulting to any sense of propriety and integrity in public life. If she were to prove successful, she would be in a position to make the type of legislation that sends people like the teacher to prison.
It seems unfair that the teacher should be jailed and Bailey is even being considered as a possible public representative, taking part in governing the country, or part of it anyway given that Dublin is not permitted by the British to govern the North.
The teacher was wrong although if I was 16 I would not think she was that wrong at all, instead thinking that anybody objecting was wrong in the head and should mind their own business. But in this case the laws are there for a good reason. Children and young people must be protected, often from their own desires that leave them vulnerable.
Unlike the teacher, the law is not wrong but selective in who it targets. A non-custodial sentence in the case would have done the job just as well. There is hardly any gain for society in sending someone to jail when the risk of reoffending seems so low. The opprobrium alone is enough, a career finished, a reputation in tatters. In the words of the judge, “undoubtedly by way of her misbehaviour, she has brought shame on herself, and ridicule."
She erred regarding the correct age of consent and it appears she exhibited an infatuation, not a predator's instinct for stalking the young. The teacher’s solicitor:
handed into court a report from a specialist in childhood sexual abuse. The reports stated that the teacher had no sexual interest in children or adolescents and did not qualify as being a paedophile. It described her as a naive young woman who only recently realised the seriousness of her actions and took responsibility for them. The report stated that she did not groom the boy for her own sexual gratification, that he initiated sexual contact and she was flattered by it.