I must admit that at times I display a distinct naivety in my approach to life. I like people. I trust people. Sometimes my own experiences have provided me with reason to behave this way. For example, I worked for many years at the Government Law Center of Albany Law School. While there, I met lots and lots of people who worked in Government. Local government. State government. Federal government. Legislators. Executive staff. Judges. And on the whole, the people I met who made their careers in government were good, caring people who wanted to make a difference. Sure, I met the power hungry and the self-indulgent, but they were the exception, not the rule. I have a lot of respect for people who work for their fellow citizens and try to do, on a daily basis, what is right.
But then I am confronted with something like this in today’s Guardian newspaper (via Current Awareness from the Inner Temple), and my respect is eroded (and replaced with disdain, to be perfectly honest):
Judges admit they get round law designed to protect women in rape trial
Judges have undermined a law intended to stop defence lawyers cross-examining women in rape cases about their sexual history, by continuing to insist on their discretion to allow it, a new book discloses.
Interviews with 17 judges in London and Manchester found that some insisted they still had a wide discretion to allow questions on sexual history, although the law was changed in 2000 to impose severe limits on questioning.
One judge described the provision as “pretty pathetic because it’s get-roundable”.
Another said: “I’m not one for being unduly fettered. I’ve been appointed to do a job on the basis that I have a certain amount of judgment, and to be fettered or shackled by statutory constraints I don’t think helps anybody.”
This should be a scandal of the highest level, but it doesn’t look like it will be. The story is buried in the criminal justice section of the newspaper. Maybe that’s one reason why English judges continue to hold such views and to brazenly flaunt the law. And I thought judges were appointed to protect the public, not to impose their own misogynistic views on others despite legislation telling them specifically to stop (how else can you defend a judge who says he doesn’t want his discretion to be “shackled” — even the language used points out the disdain with which he holds women, especially women accused of rape). Depressing.