As I have said previously, I don't have much experience with the law. I did legal studies in high school but all I really remember about that class was an excursion to the High Court in Canberra and one of the guys in our group falling in the water feature that runs along the side of the path. I do, however, know a little about right and wrong. I know what is fair and I know what is unfair and I know, when it comes to these things, very often our courts let us down because of either legal loopholes or extenuating circumstances.
This has happened again this week in the awful and tragic story of the 12 year old girl who was pimped out by her mother and had to sleep with over 100 men. Let me repeat what I just said; This girl is 12 and her mother (yes, her mother!!!) pimped her out to complete strangers. Thankfully this revolting woman and her partner have been sent to jail (however there is debate over whether or not the ten year sentence was too light) but what about the men who paid them to have sex with the child? What about their punishments?
Now to me, and many others I have spoken to, this should be a fairly straightforward case. A child is used as a prostitute, anyone and everyone involved should be held accountable and punished with the full force of the law.
Sadly, however, because of certain circumstances, the Director of Public Prosecutions made the decision not to go ahead with the charges. One of his reasons was because the men involved answered a newspaper ad that stated that her age was 18 and that he was also advised that the improbability that someone would advertise a twelve year old for prostitution, should be taken into account.
Another reason he decided against it was because the girl herself was unwilling to testify in court and to be honest, there is a very good reason for this.
She has been absolutely traumatised by the whole situation. She has already had to sit through and testify in the trials of her mother and her mother's partner and I can fully understand why she wouldn't want to go through it any more. Considering each man who faces charges would have to be tried separately, the trials could go on for years, leaving this poor child with nothing but court dates and constant reminders of her ordeal for the rest of her youth.
Also, considering the sheer number of men she was subjected to over a short period of time, it is very unlikely she would be able to absolutely identify each one properly, leading to the defence most likely calling her an unreliable witness and having the case thrown out which would, in my opinion, just add to the trauma.
I have to say though, one of the things that has really bothered me about this case (and believe me there are many things that bother me about this case) is the defence used by former Labor MP Terry Martin, the only man (apart from, of course, Gary Devine, the mother's partner) to be charged with any offences related to this situation.
Yes, he was found guilty of having sex with a young person and of producing child exploitation material, for which he was given a measly 10 month suspended sentence, however the judge, Justice Porter, decided not to charge him with indecent assault or to place his name on the sex offender register because he agreed with Martin's claim that it wasn't really his fault because the medicine he was on made him do it.
Um what? Back up a little bit here, I am confused. Your medicine?
According to his defence team Mr Martin suffers from Parkinson's Disease and the medication he was on causes a side-effect known as “hypersexuality” which basically means he was super-horny all the time and needed to release it.
Fine. I have no problem with that. However, as previously mentioned, the girl he chose to have sex with was 12 years old. Twelve! So what if she was advertised as being 18? Anyone who has ever been around, well, people, can tell the difference between a child of 12 and an adult of 18 and the minute he saw her, he should have known.
In a maybe believable defence, all the men who were found to have had sex with her claimed it was in a darkened room and they truly believed her to be 18, however Terry Martin also had the girl visit his home, where he not only had sex with her but took photos and videos as well and I really do have a hard time believing that in that situation he couldn't tell she was under-age. Even with make-up and grown-up clothes on, I'll concede she may have looked 16, but that's still illegal and it's still a stretch. Especially once she was naked.
I don't give a crap if he was suffering from the bluest balls in history, the girl was 12! It's not like sex workers are hard to come by and even if they were, the minute this obviously under-age girl stepped into his home he should have asked her to leave and then got over his “hypersexuality” with a wank.
One thing this whole case brings to the fore is the very important need for a safe, legal, regulated sex industry in Tasmania. You see, although prostitution in itself is not illegal there (if you're a single worker in a private residence or hotel), there are no legal brothels and no licensed agencies and so punters are quite often forced to break the law by answering illegal advertisements in the paper like they did in the case of this young girl. If sexual services were legal and regulated there, this whole sorry situation could well have been avoided.
I will defend to the death the right of Kevin Rudd to go to a strip club, and NSW Labor MP David Campbell's right to go to a gay bar and I fully believe the backlash they received from those indiscretions was ridiculous and overblown but they are adults, performing adult activities with other adults in a consensual manner. This is different. This girl was 12!
If Terry Martin had gone and had a scat-filled orgy with midgets and Thai lady-boys then I would also defend his right to do so, but I will never, no matter how “hypersexual” he was, believe he could not control himself around this child nor do I believe he is any kind of victim in this whole mess.
I really do wonder what sort of precedent this is setting and what sort of message are we sending to not only sex offenders, but to the children who are their victims? “Oh, sure it's wrong... But this man was on medicine, and you're too traumatised to testify so we're going to let him off. Sorry, kid!”
It really isn't good enough. It is sad, it is tragic and it is disgusting and I just hope that this young girl, after all she has been through, will find some peace and comfort in her world and will grow up to be a strong, smart independent woman with the world at her feet. But something tells me that not only her mother but the entire legal system has let her down in a way that she may never fully recover.