Friday, April 08, 2011

Tom Wolfe Approves

Although I shall shamefacedly admit I had not heard of him prior to this story breaking, it seems Alberta is in a tizzy over comments made by the Alberta Liberal candidate John Reilly. Mr. Reilly, who has previously served for over thirty years as a judge, said that he felt that mandatory sentences, specifically he was speaking in cases of sexual assault, were unnecessary and mitigated the discretion of the judge.  He made the mistake of downplaying a sexual assault which occurred at a party, saying he felt it was unnecessary for the offender to go to prison for three years.

The response has been varied, from suggesting he should be removed from election consideration to simply shrugging that "At least he's not as bad as that Forbes guy." He has since issued an apology and Ignatieff has said Reilly will continue to run in the Wild Rose district.

There are a lot of factors at play here, from the damage done to the Liberal party, already harmed for being known as 'soft on criminals', to the promotion of his career since, as they say, there is no bad publicity. One commenter on the site which held the transcript observed that the interviewer questioned Reilly's stance on sexual assault sentences by asking how Mr. Reilly would feel if it was "his daughter"; the commenter felt that the appeal to the emotion side of people was low, and noted that his own daughters hated being used as political pawns. It is true the victim needs to be considered in the justice system, probably more than they currently are, but simply holding them up as withering violets is an argumental straw man, and demeans victims by making us desensitized to the reality of their plight.

The biggest objection that I have, and I am pretty sure Mr. Reilly simply missed it because he had spent so many years making judgements, relying on his own tuition, and building a solid base of experience, is that we can not always count on the lucid, rational, sober thought of judges. People are fallible, and easily swayed by day to day events and subconscious mores. Moreover, the primary point of the minimum sentence is twofold: first, a safeguard to demonstrate what we will not tolerate in our society; second, a deterrent in our justice system to discourage people from engaging in the activity and thinking they can just 'play it off' later.

I am not sure if he should be removed from the running, but I am pretty sure that he should be made to observe many other judges holding court, preferably ones with ideals he may not agree with, before he is allowed to comment on the justice system again, especially when he hopes to further more "enlightened" solutions.

The Title refers to a quote from Tom Wolfe that "A liberal is a conservative who has been arrested"


Anonymous said...

Have you ever maybe thought, that if you hung yourself, that you would complain a lot less?

Miss Ernst said...

Boring AND poorly written; it's like I won the troll lottery.

A-Pants said...

But, the troll demographic, that the trolls, they need a voice too. Have you thought that too?