Friday, October 31, 2008

Woman's rape lie led to man's imprisonment for 10 months - and she serves no jail time

In the news story below, a woman's lies helped put a man behind bars for ten months -- and she was sentenced to 50 hours community service.

You read that right. 50 hours -- of no jail time.

How is this sentence proportional to the false accuser's crime? Let's talk about proportionality for a second. It is a fundamental maxim of our jurisprudence that the punishment should fit the crime. For most crimes, it is difficult to discern what is a proper punishment. What sentence does a punch in the nose warrant? Our jurisprudence does not generally sentence the criminal to be subjected to the same harm as he or she inflicted on the victim (or else a criminal would receive a punch in the nose for having inflicted a punch in the nose); for serious crimes, our jurisprudence opts for incarceration instead. The reason it is usually difficult to say what sentence is appropriate for a particular crime is because generally the harm inflicted to the victim (e.g., the punch in the nose) and the sentence to the criminal for inflicting that harm (incarceration) are proverbial apples and oranges -- jail time for a punch in the nose -- so there is never an exact match.

But in this case, it's not apples and oranges. Among other things, the harm inflicted on the victim, the man, was ten months' jail time – the same punishment that the criminal, the woman, could have received. The harm to him and the possible punishment to her are apples and apples. Yet she doesn't even serve a day in jail. (The fact is, the harm to him was far greater than the time he served in jail -- there were numerous other direct harms flowing from the false accusation – the psychological torment, the damage to his reputation, being rendered an outcast among his friends and family -- the list goes on and on.)

But at a minimum, for starters, it would have been proper, and fair, to assume she should serve at least as much jail time as her victim -- and then tack on more time for the other harms she caused -- right?

Apparently not to the judge in this case.

How will she and others be deterred from making false rape claims in the future? Answer: She and they won't be deterred.


50 hours' service for false evidence

A woman who admitted gathering false evidence which led to a Rotorua man being jailed for rape has been convicted.

Robert Sutton, who owns the Happy Angler store at Mourea, spent 10 months behind bars after being convicted in October 2005 of two violent rapes he says he never committed. He was released following a successful appeal after new evidence showed his former partner, Marion Anne Carter of Te Awamutu, "gathered false evidence in support of the allegations prior to the trial".

Carter pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice. She appeared in the Hamilton District Court yesterday and was sentenced to 50 hours' community work.

The charge carries a maximum of seven years' jail.Mr Sutton told The Daily Post yesterday he was gutted Carter got such a light sentence, saying she should have had to serve 10 months in jail also.

"I just think the justice system has let us down."

Mr Sutton was convicted of 15 charges - two of rape, nine of assault and four relating to assault with a weapon. Carter was the main complainant out of three.

The Crown decided in August last year it would not put Mr Sutton on trial a second time.