The outrage is mounting, after Judge Philippa Cunningham dealt bizarrely with a comedian who had pleaded guilty to a not-so-funny sexual offence against his infant daughter.
She let this fellow go free without conviction, partly because he “makes people laugh”.
He will still be making people laugh, because we don’t know who he is and therefore we can’t express our contempt for him by steering clear of his shows.
At sentencing in the Auckland District Court, Judge Philippa Cunningham said he had stopped drinking, paid a high price in his personal and work life, and had shown remorse.
Judge Cunningham said the consequences of a conviction would outweigh the gravity of the offence.
She also granted the man permanent name suppression to protect the identity of his daughter.
“He’s a talented New Zealander. He makes people laugh. Laughter is an incredible medicine and we all need lots of it,” the judge said
But Alf and Mrs Grumble found nothing to laugh about in the shabby story involving booze and the comedian’s removing the four-year-old’s nappy to commit the offence.
They did laugh – scornfully – at this bit:
The man’s partner woke up and asked him what he was doing. He replied: “I thought it was you.”
Alf advises his constituents to read a splendid (and much more scathing) post headed In praise of mothers who don’t think child abuse is funny at The Hand Mirror.
The heads of agencies that deal with kiddies are expressing their dismay, too.
Murray Edridge, Chief Executive of Barnardos, has expressed his outrage thus –
“Barnardos is very concerned that the judgement passed down on Friday 2 September will set a precedent. The verdict suggests that a person’s ability to get work in the future, and their ability to make people laugh, is more important than a child’s safety.
“This man has come home drunk, committed an unacceptable sexual act on his daughter and has admitted doing so. Unbelievably, he faces no legal consequences for his actions. A discharge without conviction means there will be no record of his crime. He has previously been charged with unlawful sexual connection and escaped conviction in that case too.
“It is very concerning to think that being talented and funny somehow excuses the inexcusable. I absolutely disagree with the Judge’s assertion that “the effects of a conviction outweighed the gravity of the offending”.
“These actions are not without impact. The mother and daughter were deeply traumatised by the drunken actions of this individual and have been receiving counselling.”
Alan Bell, Director of ECPAT Child ALERT, has questioned the decision, too.
“What does this say about protecting our children from sexual exploitation? Does this decision provide a deterrent for other would-be offenders? Does being intoxicated and the possibility that he ‘was not fully awake’ excuse the abusive behaviour? Is there one law for some and another for others?”
Bell has noted the offender’s lawyer pleading that her client be allowed to keep his record clean because a conviction would make it hard for him to work again as a comedian.
Bell rejoins that this seems to place more importance on the man being able to continue his life as normal, as if he had not offended, rather than on protecting children and ensuring that justice was being exercised evenly against offenders.
And what difference should an offender’s occupation make to the court’s judgement?
There’s a commendable editorial on the matter in the Dominion-Post, too.
The newspaper drew parallels with the cases of
* Former Te Papa manager Noel James Osborne who escaped conviction last month for a “degrading” assault on his pregnant former partner after claiming a conviction would hamper his international travel for the museum, and
* Another entertainer discharged without conviction two years ago after pleading guilty to performing an indecent act in a Wellington alleyway.
In each case, the judge concluded the consequence of a conviction far exceeded the gravity of offending. In each case, the public has been left utterly bewildered. Making people laugh does not entitle you to leniency from the courts. Nor does holding a position of responsibility.
Laughter is a good medicine, Alf agrees.
The comedian should have been sent to dispense it among the felons in one of our prisons.