Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Temple of the Law

Going through my files (I call them my files even though they really are just uncollated, dog-eared sheafs of paper) I came across a newspaper report of an Aichi court decision from one year ago. It casts an interesting light of the Okinawa police force's decision to not charge Sgt. Tyrone Hadnott, particularly as it applies to the issue of how intent can have an effect on the prosecution of sex crimes.

On May 24 last, newspapers reported that the previous day a Nagoya Municipal Court had found a 32 year old man not guilty of violating Aichi Prefecture's Youth Protection and Nurturing Ordinance (seishōnen hogo ikusei jōrei, also called the "Prohibition against Harlotry" – inkō no kinshi). The man, an assistant restaurant manager--married, with a pregnant wife and one child at home -- began a relationship with a then 17 year old high school student working part time at the restaurant. Four months after the girl began working at the establishment, the man and the girl began visiting a local hotel to engage in sex. The recorded number of visits to the hotel were six...

The police arrested the man for violating the ordinance's prohibitions against inciting a minor to lewd and licentious behavior. Prosecutors demanded he pay a 400,000 yen fine.

The judge ruled the man not guilty, with the explanation, "It was a sincere and continuing relationship for which it cannot be said that the man carried it out solely with the intent of satisfying his own lust." As a consequence, the judge concluded, there is no evidence of a crime having been committed.

Prosecutors brought up the seemingly important point of the man being already married. The judge would have none of it, saying, "The girl knew of the situation and accepted it. She sought out this relationship out of mutual affection."

As for the argument that the man abused his position as the girls's supervisor—the judge dismissed it out of hand.

In closing remarks, the judge nevertheless warned the man:

"This court's decision does not represent the public's placing a mark of approval on your actions. I want you to think seriously that even though what you have done is permissible under the law, what you have done has elements in it that are morally impermissible."

Very odd. Not very encouraging too. I can perceive no legal principle being honored. The special needs of children for protection...the definition of sexual harassment...impartial application of the law as written...the separation of the powers...all dissolved in the bathetic cauldron of "affection."

Sometimes it seems as though the law is just one vast, empty edifice.

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