Leading Barrister, Barbara Hewson has called for the age of consent to be lowered to 13 to avoid the prosecution of sex offenders like Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall. She published these comments in Spiked Magazine. Is there a place in the legal profession for a barrister who excuses the rape and sexual assault of minors as ‘low level misdemeanours’?
Taken Out of Context?
Hewson’s comments are not made in the context of ethical debate on what age a person can consent to sex. She explicitly promotes the age reduction as a means to avoid what she calls the ‘grotesque spectacle’ of household names from 70’s TV, Media and Radio being called to account for sex crimes.
Hewson’s Nonsensical Argument
Stop persecuting these poor old men!
Hewson argues that these old men are being persecuted. It is important to remember that the only reason these men are facing these charges in old age is because they committed them in an era which manifestly failed to deliver justice for their victims. The sad fact that a previous generation made it a perk of stardom to molest women, boys and girls without sanction, does not deny a subsequent generation the right or duty to hold them to account. If someone commits a crime, the possibility of prosecution for that crime should follow them to their grave. This is not the United States; the Statute of Limitations does not apply here.
Furthermore, any attempt to justify these crimes within the context of ‘the 70’s maaaan’ is entirely without merit. Not every man and not every media personality behaved this way – it cannot be excused by some sort of moral relativism.
These cases are low level misdemeanours; it’s not in the public interest to prosecute
‘Touching a 17 year olds breast, kissing a 13 year old, putting one’s hand up a 16 year olds skirt is not remotely comparable to…gang rape…anyone suggesting otherwise has lost touch with reality’. There are several reasons this argument is factually wrong, but morally wrong.
Firstly, this is complete logical fallacy. Touching a 17 year olds breast or putting one’s hand up a 16 year olds skirt is perfectly legal – if they consent to it. Where there is not consent, where there is force or coercion, it is sexual assault. This is a crime.
Secondly, this is a false characterisation of the abuses by Stuart Hall. Hall has been charged with, and has admitted, committing 14 acts of indecent assault and one of rape over a near 20 year period, including the sexual assault of a nine year old girl.
For Hewson to dismiss the rape and assault of children as young as nine as some sort of slap and tickle is exactly the attitude that made these assaults possible in the first place. Her belittling of such crimes as trivia is just the prevailing mood of the time in which the crimes occurred, and which meant victims and potential witnesses alike kept their mouths firmly shut.
The Age of Consent Should be Reduced to 13
Hewson argues that the prosecution of sex offenders “poses a far graver threat to society than anything Jimmy Savile ever did.” She completes her masterclass in moral vacuity with the following:
“It’s time to end this prurient charade, which has nothing to do with justice or the public interest. Adults and law-enforcement agencies must stop fetishising victimhood. Instead, we should focus on arming today’s youngsters with the savoir-faire and social skills to avoid drifting into compromising situations, and prosecute modern crime. As for law reform, now regrettably necessary, my recommendations are: remove complainant anonymity; introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions; and reduce the age of consent to 13.”
The legalistic language and grammar somewhat deflect the true horror of these sentiments. Hewson is arguing:
a) Holding sex offenders to account is more dangerous than engaging in acts of rape, molestation and sexual abuse.
b) To seek criminal accountability for sex crimes is ‘fetishising victimhood’
c) That these children, if educated differently, could have avoided ‘drifting into compromising situations’. This is victim blaming. The children didn’t drift anywhere, abuse is a deliberate act on the part of the offender not the offended upon.
d) That those alleging crimes of a sexual nature, including children, should be forced into the public domain – their most humiliating experience put out there for friends, peers, colleagues and family to read about.
e) That we should reduce the age of consent to 13 so adults can fondle kids with impunity. A 13 year old cannot currently go to see a sexually explicit movie in the cinema, but Hewson argues they are ready to enter into a sexual relationship with an adult of any age?
No Place in the Courtroom for a Rape Apologist
Barbara Hewson has repeatedly been placed in Legal 500’s Leading Junior’s list. She operates out of the Hardwicke Chambers in London. People with such a disgraceful respect for the law and sexual morality shouldn’t be operating out of a McDonald’s bathroom, let alone one of the leading legal institutions of the land. No doubt, Hewson will hide behind the Freedom of Speech defense, and critics calling for her to be held to account will be denounced as pitch fork wielding thought police. The thing with Freedom of Speech: it works both ways. If Hewson is free to call for the age of consent to be reduced to 13 to help child abusers avoid legal accountability, then others are free to denounce her views and call for her to be held to account for them. No one stopped Hewson speaking, but we do have a right to question the platform she is granted from which to spew such noxious views.
If you would like Hewson to be held responsible, you can do the following:
Get in touch with Hardwicke Chambers and tell them what you think.
Make a complaint to the Bar Standards Board
Another Angry Woman wrote a powerful blog today on how it feels to be a rape survivor and read Hewson’s comments.