Tuesday 16 January 2018

The unfortunate truth in Judge's controversial comments

Colm Lambert

Loopy juice like 'Fat Frogs' - a combination of these three drinks - is part of the problem
Loopy juice like 'Fat Frogs' - a combination of these three drinks - is part of the problem

UK District Court Judge Nigel Cadbury is not somebody we'd ever heard of before in this country until last week - and it's unlikely we'll hear much of him again - but for a few days, comments he made in Worcester Court drew the ire of many here.

He was sentencing a young woman named Leanne Roberts, who'd assaulted another while out-of-her-face drunk. He told her: 'There is clearly a drinking problem because you can't even remember what you did. I am sure you are now aware of how vulnerable you made yourself. I find it incredible that young people can get so drunk that they don't even know who they're with'.

He then made the blunder however of comparing the situation to the tragic death in Scotland of Cork student, Karen Buckley.

'One only has to think about the horrible situation in Glasgow to see how serious this could have been. It's very, very worrying how young girls put themselves in such very, very vulnerable positions,' he said.

It was an unfortunate comparison as there has been no suggestion that Karen Buckley was drunk on the night she suffered her horrific fate, and there was widespread and justified condemnation of the Judge for implying otherwise.

Women's groups and victim support groups also took the opportunity to rightfully say that perpetrators of crime or violence against women should never be allowed a defence along the lines of 'she was asking for it'. Of course a woman should be able to wear what she likes on a night out without having to fear that a short skirt or revealing top might put her at greater risk of preying perverts pouncing on her. And any one of us should be guaranteed the ability to get home safely afterwards, with no threat of violence or theft or anything else.

But the keyword there is should. Because no matter how we might like to tell ourselves otherwise, the harsh and unpalatable reality is that there are scumbags everywhere, just looking for their next victim - and if you do anything to make yourself more vulnerable, such as drinking too much and then trying to stagger home - you put yourself at greater risk of becoming that victim.

And no matter what you might think of Judges - a profession often accused of being aloof and out of touch - they're probably in some of the best positions of all to see that and to comment upon it. There's not a court sitting goes by where they don't see examples of some of the sorts of badness and downright wickedness that walks on our streets, and these are the people you're in danger of if you act irresponsibly yourself.

It must be stressed that young men are also at risk - perhaps not of sexual assault, but certainly of other types of violence and unwanted attention. And the bottom line is that ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety and security, as you simply can't change the fact that these scumbags are out there. If that means that you have to therefore change your own behaviour instead, then so be it.

It's the same principle of how you wouldn't go out for the day and leave your house unlocked. Nor would you leave the keys in your car while you went into the shops, or your phone or wallet or handbag on a pub or restaurant table while you went to the toilet. If you do any of those things and then complain that you've become a victim of crime, people will say 'ya big eejit, you should have known better'.

So, Judge Cadbury is unfortunately all too correct when he says that drinking to excess can put what he termed 'young girls' into vulnerable positions. And part of the problem is the stuff that young people are actually drinking. Pints or bottles or ordinary shorts are just a small part of the repertoire these days. Things like 'Fat Frogs' (a heinous mix of Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi Breezer and WKD Blue) and 'Jager Bombs' are another - and that's the sort of loopy juice that knocks your brain cells right out, leaving you vulnerable to those dangers that shouldn't exist but unfortunately do.

There appears to be two solutions: drink less and more responsibly, or else lock up all the scumbags and throw away the key.

Much as we might like to see the second one employed, it's never going to happen unless our criminal justice system becomes like the American 'three strikes and you're out' - which would probably bring some other tax here because of the sheer cost of keeping prisoners locked up.

Which means once again that we should reflect upon the words of Judge Nigel Cadbury last week. He was wrong to employ them in the context of the tragic Karen Buckley, but he was right in many other ways, and nobody should pretend otherwise.

Wexford People

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