Outrage at barrister who called Stuart Hall's crimes 'low level'

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Offline the leveller

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Outrage at barrister who called Stuart Hall's crimes 'low level'

?Barbara Hewson also said aged of consent should be lowered to 13

?She described Operation Yewtree arrests as a 'grotesque spectacle'
?Claimed disgraced Stuart Hall's crimes were 'low level misdemeanors'

?NSPCC said her 'outdated and simply ill-informed' views 'beggars belief'

 By Keith Gladdis and Nazia Parveen

PUBLISHED:19:03, 8 May 2013| UPDATED:00:22, 10 May 2013

?Comments (892)
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Barrister Barbara Hewson has claimed the age of consent should be lowered to 13 to protect older men in the wake of the Jimmy Savile sex scandal

Stuart Hall?s sex crimes were low-level misdemeanours, a leading barrister claimed yesterday.

In comments that provoked outrage, Barbara Hewson called for the age of consent to be cut to 13 and for an end to the ?persecution of old men?.

She said Scotland Yard?s Operation Yewtree, which is investigating the crimes of Jimmy Savile and allegations against other celebrities, had ?nothing to do with justice?.

She added that ?the post-Savile witch-hunting of ageing celebs echoes the Soviet Union? and it was not difficult to see why some elderly defendants ?conclude that resistance is useless?.

Miss Hewson, who is an abortion rights specialist, said the arrests of Rolf Harris, Dave Lee Travis, Jim Davidson and Max Clifford were driven by the need to produce ?scapegoats on demand?.

But Susan Harrison, 61, who was indecently assaulted by Hall when she was 16, said it was wrong to make light of his crimes.

?To call them low-level misdemeanours is not only incredibly hurtful to all the victims it is also utterly ridiculous,? she said.

?I don?t think Miss Hewson understands what it is like to be on the receiving end of this kind of abuse from a man who is trusted by your family and by society as a whole. What he did to me went on to ruin my life and I am still dealing with the aftermath now and to call it low level is just offensive.?

Alan Collins, of Pannone Solicitors, which represents many of Savile?s and 83-year-old Hall?s victims, called her comments ?crazy? and ?ignorant?.

Hardwicke Chambers, where she is a junior barrister, expressed shock and said they were investigating.

'A grotesque spectacle': Lawyer Barbara Hewson criticised the arrests of celebrities including (clockwise from top left) Rolf Harris, Max Clifford Dave Lee Travis and Jim Davidson, in the wake of the Jimmy Savile sex inquiry

Internet bloggers and Twitter users attacked her comments claiming they were ill-informed and ?victim blaming?.

In an online article in Spiked magazine, Miss Hewson had claimed that ?touching a 17-year-old?s breast, kissing a 13-year-old, or putting one?s hand up a 16-year-old?s skirt? were not comparable to cases such as the Ealing Vicarage and Fordingbridge rapes and murders from the 1980s.

She added: ?Anyone suggesting otherwise has lost touch with reality. Ordinarily, Hall?s misdemeanours would not be prosecuted, and certainly not decades after the event.

?What we have here is the manipulation of the British criminal justice system to produce scapegoats on demand. It is a grotesque spectacle.?

Miss Hewson, 52, who lives in a ?1million home in Islington, North London, yesterday revealed on Twitter that she had received abuse and threats online.

She said of the more offensive comments: ?So now someone wants me raped and another wants me ?hunted into obscurity? ? visceral, very nasty stuff.?

Last night she added: ?Good journalists stand by what they write and so do I. Like Voltaire, we must defend the right to express our opinions. Incidentally I have had a wave of polite emails from strangers saying how much they appreciated my article.?

In the article Miss Hewson called the NSPCC and the National Association for People Abused in Childhood ?moral crusaders? and ?do-gooders? who had infiltrated Yewtree.

She said the ?national trawl for historical victims was an open invitation to all manner of folk to reinterpret their experience of the past as one of victimisation?.

Crimes: Scotland Yard's Operation Yewtree, is split into three inquiries into allegations involving deceased presenter Jimmy Savile, involving Savile and others and those involving just others

Peter Watt, director of the NSPCC helpline, said: ?These outdated and ill-informed views would be shocking to hear from anyone but to hear them from a highly experienced barrister simply beggars belief.

?Stuart Hall has pleaded guilty to abusing children as young as nine years old; we think most people would agree that crimes of this nature are incredibly serious. To minimise and trivialise the impact of these offences for victims in this way is all but denying that they have in fact suffered abuse at all.

?What she is saying does not make any sense at all. The abuse causes long-lasting damage to victims.

?To lower the age of consent would just give the green light to abusers like Stuart Hall and Jimmy Savile to carry on with their crimes.?

In a statement, Hardwicke said: ?We did not see or approve the article pre-publication and we dissociate ourselves from its content and any related views she may have expressed.?

Among the Twitter users reacting angrily to Miss Hewson?s comments was Sarah Rees who posted: ?I am guessing you don?t have any 13-year-old daughters, or children to protect. Absolutely shameful.?

Sharron Riddle said: ?Shaking my head. And my fist. UK lawyer wants age of consent to be lowered to 13 to protect dirty old men.?

this is exactly why our judicial system is in the mess its in, with judges and magistrates handing out lenient sentences for major crimes! its about time they got rid of people like hewson! i dont suppose this stupid woman has any children of her own to make such a gross statement!! disgraceful and disgusting woman!

- benp , bangkok thailand, United Kingdom, 10/5/2013 12:07
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There you go this is why the justice system is being destroyed this woman is very very dangerous if she thinks that halls behavoir is low level crime. It all starting to fit together now and what they are moving towards and that is the acceptance of paedophilia in society, this women should really be stopped from practicing law full stop a very very dangerous person who in my opinion is a great threat to the public as well as the filthy dirty monsters that prey on the innocent.
- ricey , rugeley, United Kingdom, 10/5/2013 12:04
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Scum Lawyer has she a 13 year old child I wonder
- Taff , Hereford, United Kingdom, 10/5/2013 12:03
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This woman is a disgrace. No child or person for that fact should have to put with any inappropriate behaviour, low level or not. In fact, there is no low level where sexual abuse is concerned. Sack her I say!
- Shellsbelles , ex Plymouth resident, 10/5/2013 11:54
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do some research people ....it is in committee stage in Brussels that the age of consent be lowered initially to 14 and on review to 12..........that would mean it becomes law in UK in 5 - 10 years........if you are so upset by this woman's comments then remember in time she could be the judge who sentences your teenage daughters rapist to six months..........and she is by no means the only member of the judiciary to hold these views
- Les . , wiltshire, United Kingdom, 10/5/2013 11:45
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Unbelievably stupid and ill advised and ill considered comments from a member of the Legal Fraternity. How could she have opinions like these which fly in the face of Hall's Guilty Pleas?
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Groping and fondling is not in the same league as rape. Why is this such a controversial comment? Reading the comments attached to this article it is apparent that many are reacting to what they think Ms Hewson has written, not to what she in fact wrote. As to lowering the age of consent to 13, not a good idea, but the average 13 year old today, come to that the average 9 year old, knows far more about sex than the average 13 old did 20 years ago because of the sex education that is thrust down their throats whether they or their parents want it or not. Whilst there is something deeply unattractive about sexual relationships between young teenagers adults (i.e. 18 or over) we presently criminalise such teenagers who have consensual sex - no doubt putting into practice all that sex education. That is a matter of concern. What this debate shows is the present national inability to conduct a reasoned and rational conversation without resorting to personal and vitriolic abuse.
- JM , Nottingham, 10/5/2013 11:35
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If you have nothing intelligent to say woman, just shut your mouth. I find people like her obnoxious.
- Only my opinion , England, 10/5/2013 11:18
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Next thing she will be a judge, God help us. How much worse does this countries legal system have to get before we have a major cull of these totally out of touch idiots.
- Mike Brit expat OAP , Khon Kaen, Thailand, 10/5/2013 11:10
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Red arrow me till the cows come home, but I do agree with some of what she says. Thirteen year old girls today are far more worldly wise about sex today than in times past. You can't compare a 13-year-old of today with a 13-year-old of 30 years ago. The degree of sexual precocity of young girls these days is off the chart in comparison. Many girls this age are already sexually active with boyfriends, sexting, taking naked selfies on their phones, etc. That being the case, I don't believe the age of consent should be lowered just to placate the sexual urges of older men. To even suggest doing that is offensive. What I do agree with is the degree of criminality of crimes such as groping and touching. To suggest having one's breast touched or having a man's hand placed on your thigh is sexual molestation on par with rape and as psychologically damaging as rape is utterly ludicrous and I simply don't believe that women's lives are ruined by these events.

- Allie , Sydney Australia, 10/5/2013 11:07

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« Last Edit: May 10, 2013, 10:04:36 PM by the leveller »


Offline the leveller

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Re: Outrage at barrister who called Stuart Hall's crimes 'low level'
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2013, 10:09:06 PM »

10 May 2013 11:45 | By Peter Tatchell

Lowering the age of consent merits open debate, not closed minds

Peter Tatchell argues it's worth considering the benefits of changing the law


Rex Features

Law reform barrister Barbara Hewson has unleashed a tirade of hostility after she proposed reducing the age of consent to 13 and reforming the way child sex abuse allegations are prosecuted.
 Her proposals are problematic but they merit debate, without name-calling and distorting what she said.

The age of consent, sex abuse and prosecuting policy are important human rights issues. Child protection must, of course, always be the priority. This should not, however, preclude a reasoned, informed debate, based on evidence and rational, objective argument.
 Some aspects of Ms Hewson's comments, made in an article for the Spiked Online website, seem to play down the gravity of certain forms of child abuse.

She made light of what she regards as trivial sexual touching of young people by adults, saying that making an issue of it distracts people from really serious abuse, such as rape. Her view is that there are qualitatively different forms of sex abuse and they shouldn't be lumped together.
 Obviously, gang rape is worse than an unwanted kiss on the lips or caress on the thigh. However, both minor and major abuse are wrong. It is possible, and necessary, to challenge both - and to defend the victims.
 Although I agree with Hewson that the age of consent of 16 is too high and needlessly criminalises most young people, I think 13 is a bit too low - especially given the poor quality of sex education, which fails to adequately prepare most teenagers for sexual and emotional relationships.
 Hewson should not, however, be demonised for proposing age of consent reforms or reforms in the way child sex abuse allegations are prosecuted.

Even if we disagree with what she is saying, there should be a calm, considered public debate about her proposals to remove complainant anonymity; introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions; and reduce the age of consent to 13.
 If there is credible evidence of sexual assault - even if it happened many years ago - abusers should be prosecuted. Nevertheless, we must not allow a legitimate concern for victims to spill over into a generalised witch-hunt of innocent people, based on mere gossip, hearsay and flimsy evidence.

If two 15-year-olds have consenting sex, they can be put on the Sex Offenders Register, alongside rapists. That's wrong.

Police and prosecutors should not feel that having failed to stop Jimmy Savile they must now bend over backwards the other way. Over-reaction can be as bad as under reaction. 
 So what about Hewson's proposal to lower the age of consent to 13?

According to the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles in 2000, 14 is now the average age of first sexual experience (variously ranging from oral sex to mutual masturbation and full intercourse - all of which are illegal for under-16s).
 Two 15-year-olds are currently criminalised under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 if they have consenting sex. They can be put on the Sex Offenders Register, alongside rapists. That's wrong.
 I would support a reduction in the age of consent to 14 but only if it was accompanied by earlier, better quality sex education in schools.

This would encourage wiser, safer, more responsible and respectful sexual relationships, as I outlined in my speech to the Sex and the Law conference in Sheffield.
 This education should include assertiveness training to encourage young people to say no to unwanted sexual advances and to report abusers. I do not support adults having sex with children.
 Alternatively, we could keep the age of consent at 16 but institute a policy of not prosecuting sex involving young people under 16, providing there is no more than two years difference in their ages.

This would make it legal for two young people aged 14 and 16 to agree to sex, but not for a 55-year-old to have sex with person aged 14. It would reduce the criminalisation of consenting teenagers, while protecting them against predatory paedophiles. An idea worth considering?
Peter Tatchell is a journalist and political campaigner. You can follow him on Twitter. For more on his human rights campaigns and other work, visit his website.

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