This week the media went into uproar over an article in Spiked Magazine, when an interview with a successful EU Human Right’s Lawyer was published with some controversial ideas.
Barrister Barbara Hewson, the aforementioned EU Human Rights Lawyer, expressed that ‘Operation Yewtree is engaged in the persecution of old men.’ She went on to say that ‘Anything short of flogging and rape in padded rooms… is not really a serious assault.’ Explaining that the UK should be considering ‘as a priority’ lowering the age of consent to 13 years old caused a lot of debate across the country.
Operation Yewtree began last October after it came to light that Jimmy Savile, a once beloved television presenter and personality of the 1980′s, had been sexually abusing adults and children throughout his career. Following this, the police launched three investigations to cover allegations against him, others and separate incidents. It is no surprise that the media has covered the stories extensively.
Breaking news for each of the men that have been taken in for questioning has shocked the nation. Comedians, performers and actors that they once watched with respect and awe on television are now being accused of sordid crimes against the very children they encouraged to watch the programmes. Role models have been destroyed and trust in celebrities from these eras has been diminished.
Those in agreement with Barrister Hewson have called the investigations little more than a ‘witch-hunt’. In their defense, this is not the first time the media has been berated for carrying out a ‘witch-hunt’, however one important point remains. A witch-hunt suggests that the people who are being slated in the public eye are not guilty of their crimes, that they are being targeted due to irrelevant factors such as age or association. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The only people who have been arrested and investigated have been found to be guilty, and of a serious crime; sexual assault and abuse.
Barrister Hewson’s comments may make many recoil in horror. In fact, forums have been over-run with people claiming she is a ‘Paedophile apologist’. Many have tried to establish what she has experienced personally that may make her think this way, or even suggesting that if she can prove there is a difference between what she sees as a serious crime and what the courts currently think is cause for prosecution, that she can make more money from clients.
Differing opinions are unfortunately, always going to cause tension and problems, and with such a sensitive subject matter it is hard to blame anyone for their reactions. But the biggest problem must be her calls to continue to make sexual abuse of children and minors a taboo subject. The media may go after those accused until the public loses respect for them, and people like Barrister Hewson may always try to change the view of what a serious sexual assault really is, but these cases seemed to be making way for more open discussions
By being able to discuss sexual abuse, Paedophilia and it’s prevalence we could open doors to conversations that can bring about more understanding to the public. People who are being sexually abused may feel more comfortable about coming forward to report the crimes, and know what support they can receive. Barrister Hewson is entitled to her opinion, but her suggestions seem to merit these issues being solved behind closed doors again, and as we have been learning since October, this can only lead to further problems.