The Media and Sexual Crime
John Muncie (2000) sets the media and publics attitude to crime, into context, when he tells us that:
Any cursory glance at television programme listings, the contents of mass circulation newspapers or the shelves of fiction in book shops will confirm the extent to which an audience perceives crime not just as a social problem but as a major sourse of amusement and diversion, the way in which we enjoy violence, humiliation and hurt casts doubt on the universal applicability of harm as always connoting trouble, fear, loss and so on. For participants, too, the pleasure in creating harm, or doing wrong or breaking boundaries is also part of the equation and needs to be thought through (p.225).
Prof. Paul O’Mahony (1996) goes further in addressing the media and crime, when he says:
Sections of the media never tire of reflecting a fearful message of crime back to the public and amplifying it through selective reporting, sensational headlines and frequently inflammatory editorialising. For most part the media rhetoric of fear and moral panic is built on isolated cases taken out of the broader context of crime in Ireland. Traditional barriers of good taste and reticence have been broken down. As the parameters of the permissible have expended some sections of the media have developed a reprehensible, approach which is sensational and voyeuristic. Supposedly factual accounts and purportedly serious analyses and comment are often exaggerated, unsubstantiated by any reliable supporting evidence, and intended to provoke hysterical response (p.167).
This manufacturing of hysterical responses guillotines public and political debate and pushes certain weak politicians towards quick fix and usually harsh and ill considered repressive and punitive legislation, the results of which are more damaging to society in the long term. Brenda O’ Brien says:
I have always said that the media have played a positive role in helping us to come to terms with child abuse, but there is a real danger that they will become intoxicated with their own power (Irish Times. 2002).
This positive/negative role played by the media in relation to child sexual abuse was picked up by Bishop Willie Walsh when he said:
Can I ask the media to be aware of the danger that it might use its power to occupy that oppressive and uncompassionate role which hopefully the Catholic Church has vacated or at least begun to vacate (Irish Times.2002).
Psychotherapist, Marie Keenan said of sex offenders, alleged or real, and the way the media treats them:
They were constructed as non-persons and icons of evil. Labels turn people into nouns and hence the paedophile is born (Irish Times.2002).
Marie Keenan was critical of the media’s role in this demonization and its indifference to families of offenders by the repetition of cases and repeated use of photographs of abusers. In the majority of child sexual abuse cases the victim/s are from the same family as the abuser and in high profile cases lurid reporting by what has become known as Journophiles can have a devastating impact on innocent members of the extended family. However, we must also remember that many of these Journophiles have no interest in the victims in these cases and are simply reporting sensational headlines in order that they can sell the paper back book they will publish from the transcripts of the trial.
Certain media reporting can also see grave injustice done to the victims alleged or actual in such cases. In 1994 the Court of Criminal Appeal quashed a conviction which had lead to a fourteen year sentence, because newspaper articles and pictures that were published during the trial period, which named the Defendant, were likely to prejudice the jury against him. In 1994, Mr Justice Kelly find the Star £10,000 for publishing a report that did not reflect what had gone on in Court and was neither ‘fair or true’. This report led to the dismissal of the jury. In 2002 the reporting of a case appearing before Mr Justice, John Neilan at Mullingar District Court, relating to a charge of false imprisonment and sexual assault of a child, Mr Justice Neilan said of an interview with the alleged victim’s family on RTE:
It was outrageous and a nauseating matter (Irish Independent.2002).
In the case of Tim Allen a celebrity Chef and the first person to be ‘sentenced’ as a result of Operation Amethyst, the trial Judge said he had to take into account the substantial media coverage surrounding the case. The Tim Allen case caused ‘muted’ outcry as he was given 240 hours of community service and agreed to pay £40,000 to a children’s charity. Mr Allen had paid for and down loaded one thousand pictures of children from as young as five being raped (Irish Times. 2003). These acts of legal and moral courage by members of the judiciary to face down the bullying tactics of certain sections of the media and reactionary politicians are the exception rather than the rule.
What influence can be put upon a jury by even minimal pre-trial publicity is impossible to measure; however, we can be certain that many accused persons have been denied their Constitutional right to a fair trial due to accesses by certain sections of the media. This is particularly the case in provincial towns in the IrishRepublic where serious crimes are tried before the Circuit Court. Crawford (1997) reminds us that:
An assertion of community at a local level can be beautifully conciliatory, socially nuanced and constructive but it can also be parochial, intolerant, oppressive and unjust (p.294).
Accesses by the media can impugn a convicted person’s ability to seek and receive rehabilitative care when entering the prison system and can destroy the reputation of an acquitted person. This commitment to a fair trial, as set out in the Irish Constitution, Bunreacht na hEireann, and International conventions, was confirmed by Mrs Justice Denham of the Supreme Court in 1993, when she stated:
Article 40.3 incorporated a right to fairness of procedures which incorporated the requirement of Trial by jury unprejudiced by pre-trial publicity…the right to a fair trial was a fundamental Constitutional right and was superior to the communities right to prosecute (O’Mahony.1996.p.11).
A small number of politicians have not been silent on the matter of accesses by the media, although such disquiet has not been followed through by legislation. The establishment of the Press Complaints Commission is a small step in the right direction, however, when a persons freedom is at stake no stone must be left unturned in order to guarantee a fair trial to an accused person. On the 4th of May, 2001, Donnie Cassidy, the leader of the Senate at that time said:
The rights of citizens were being eroded by some sections of the media and the Oireachtas would have to be courageous in addressing this problem.
Mr Maurice Manning, the Fine Gael Leader of the Seanad responded to Mr Cassidy by saying:
I would like to draw attention to the fact that this very morning one criminal trial cannot go a head because of the antics of some newspapers yesterday (Irish Times.2001).
In an article in The Irish Times (2003) Fintan O’Toole gave an excellent analysis of the negative role played by some media in the murder trial of Catherine Nevin. O’ Toole concludes this article by saying:
The media industry, which rightly demands that others account for their use of power, has a lot to account for (p.16).
The jury is not the only consideration where the accesses of the media are concerned. In 2001 a Circuit Court Judge, ordered the media from his Court as he sentenced a man found guilty of sexual offences. The judge stated that his reasons for ordering the media from his court was that, he felt the presence of the media would influence his sentencing of the accused man. While this decision by the Circuit Court judge was later over turned by the High Court, it opened up the somewhat muted debate about the effects of popular sentiment and legislative provision for harsher sentences on the actual practice of judicial discretion. However, the muted debate disappeared with the headlines. Even where a judge of the lower courts has banned the publishing of names of persons involved in sexual crime cases in the interest of the victim/s, the High Court has over turned such decisions (Irish Times.2002).
Yet there is a moral schizophrenia in sections of the media when it comes to sexual crime alleged or real. While one can read tabloid headlines such as ‘Sex Beast’ and ‘Sex Monster’ (Stanko.2000) the flick of the front page of the tabloid will bring the reader into a world of intimate, lurid and graphic descriptions of sexual crimes and fantasies. The material to be found on these voyeuristic journeys, is equal to the depths of depravity to be found on deviant sexual websites on the World Wide Web, sites developed and maintained for an ever more voyeuristic public, deviant sexual sub-cultures there in, and the young and the vulnerable. These lurid and voyeuristic accounts of criminals proceedings, sex orientated advertisements and perverted sex chat lines are a clear indication of the moral schizophrenia of those sections of the media, which are high on rhetoric but low on morality.
On a daily basis there are millions of examples of this moral schizophrenia in the media. Staying specifically with the area of child sexual abuse and exploitation, I have looked at the sex orientated adverts in the tabloid press. While the extent of this article is too confined to give the depth of analysis that I would like, I will however, set out some examples. In the Weekly Sport tabloid, sex orientated adverts run alongside distasteful lurid details of sex crimes before the courts, a sample of these sex orientated adverts is:
Young Girls Want to Talk to You 1-2-1
Bored Young Girls Waiting for You to Call
Lively Girls on Line Now
Young Girls Willing to Talk
Sex adverts and selective reporting of sexual crime in The Star (tabloid) follow a similar pattern. However, The Star goes further by using popular children’s movies to lure potential young customers to their sex adverts, Home Alone (a popular children’s movie) and versions there of. The Joint National Readership Research group have reported that The Star has some 400,000 readers in Ireland each day, on any given day there are up wards of forty sex adverts in The Star, including titles such as:
Hot and Horny
Chat with Girls at Home
Girls looking for Men
Girls at Home
This supply of lurid material that often runs alongside advertisements for children’s summer camps and other sporting activity of interest to children must surely be of concern to those in Irish society who genuinely want to see, sexual crime and the environment that facilitates and normalises it eliminated. It is interesting to note that these perverted sex adverts for sex chat lines are excluded from our advertising standards legislation. The proliferation of child owned mobile phones combined with this easy access to lurid material pose a real danger to community safety.
Who are these lurid advertisements directed towards? If not the weak minded, the vulnerable and the young. The word Girl in the Oxford English Dictionary means, ‘Female Child’. This discourse coupled with the use of child movies as an introduction to sex chat lines, can leave one with no other conclusion than that these sex orientated adverts are aimed at grooming children, those with a distorted sexual script and any one in the community who derives pleasure from the normalisation of sexual deviance, that these adverts portray. While much reporting of a lurid and voyeuristic nature is broadly confined to the tabloids and certain internet sites it is not exclusive to same. Some Broad sheets and visual media outlets have also taped into this marketable commodity especially at times of high profile cases.
Tom Inglis, in his book, Lessons in Irish Sexuality (1998), sets out the findings of his research when he examined the Sunday Independent, for two separate six month periods. The first six months in 1963 and the second in 1993, his analysis indicated that over the thirty-year period, the number of explicit articles and photographs increased from two to thirty-three; the number of indirect items about sex increased from one to forty-four; and the number of direct items increased from eleven to seventy-six. Roger Grafe (2000) found in his research that:
The broad sheets report about three times the actual proportion of violent crime and the tabloids about ten times. The picture of the world one gets from crime news is that it is a very violent place. Inflated perceptions of the level of violence create pressure for something to be done (p.31).
What is most significant about this increased supply of lurid and deviant material by sections of the media is that it has gone unchallenged by the Government and those NGOs, voluntary and community groups who allegedly have the interests of victims at heart. Indeed these very same organisations know well that they will themselves need banner headlines when they seek their next trench of funding from Government. The double standards of some politicians were highlighted with the resignation of Government Minister, Mr Bobby Molloy in 2002, after it was disclosed by the right Hon. Mr Justice O’Sullivan, that Mr Molloy, had phoned him in relation to the sentencing of a man convicted but not yet sentenced for raping his daughter. However, the web of intrigue did not stop there; Under a Freedom of Information request by RTE’s, Good Morning Ireland, the Department of Justice was forced to disclose that the then Minister for Justice, Mr John O’Donoghue, ‘Mr Zero Tolerance’, had exchanged fifteen letters with Mr Molloy about the man convicted of, but not yet sentenced for raping his daughter.
All of the communications focused on the possibility of getting temporary release or bail for the convicted person, an intervention that is both unlawful and un-constitutional. The same Minister for Justice was a regular contributor by way of articles and interviews with the same lurid tabloids. Indeed Mr O’Donoghue would see himself before the District Court when a convicted person sought summonses issued against Mr O’Donoghue in a private criminal prosecution, after it was disclosed under the FOI Act that Mr O’Donoghue had sent an unlawful communication to the DPP in relation to that convicted persons case (Irish Times.2002). And while Mr O’Donoghue was telling the people of Ireland that sexual crime against children would not be tolerated, he and others were signing off on a deal that would see Religious Child Rapists getting bailed out to the tune of hundreds of millions of Euro, at a time when the majority of the 5500 children in the ‘care’ of the State don’t have access to professional help. Mr O’Donoghue resigned from his position as Chair of the Dail in 2009 after it was disclosed that he had spent vast amounts of tax payer’s money on extravagances for himself and his wife, including Gondala rides in Venice, while staying in 900 Euro per night Hotel rooms.
Few politicians or groups are prepared to challenge accesses by the media. Voluntary, community, ‘victims’ groups and others in the ‘victims industry’ depend on media coverage to high light their profile, which in turn helps them to secure funding from Government each year. An unprecedented ‘bogus moral panic’ was created when a ‘victims’ group colluded with the tabloids to gain banner headlines. In 2003 a ‘victims’ group claimed that over the previous five years there had been a substantial increase in drug induced rape and sexual assault cases. In fact the Gardai and the Sexual Assault Unit at the RotundaHospital stated that not one single case of drug induced rape or sexual assault had ever been brought to their attention. Following comprehensive investigation by the Sexual Assault Units around the country, this investigation included toxicology reports on each victim, it was clearly established that the women making such allegations (if they ever did) had simply consumed so much alcohol that they could not remember what they had done the night before. Yet nobody seemed to bat an eye lid when this bogus moral panic was exposed in an RTE 1, Crime Line Report, 26th January, 2003.
The Irish Independent (2002) reported how a 17 year old French youth, claimed to have been driven by a cult horror movie ‘Scream’ to commit the gratuitous murder of a fifteen year old girl. French Justice Minister, Dominique Perben, commenting on the case said:
The Government must quickly come up with a way to avoid this repetition of scenes of violence at the disposition of adolescents. These violent scenes set in motion some particularly fragile adolescents who then play out misdemeanours or crimes.
Sex orientated sites on the internet are an extension of this tabloid supply of deviant material, to an ever more voyeuristic public and particularly those with a distorted sexual script there in. Millions of web pages now provide a wide range of sex orientated pornography and literature. The scales of provision go from curious voyeurism, to the most lurid taste, reaching into the dark recesses of unstable minds. In February, 2001, seven people were convicted in London for their part in the ‘Wonderland Club’ which was the world’s largest known child pornography web site. The ‘Wonderland Club’ internet data base held some 750,000 images, including the rape of babies as young as two months old (Irish Indpendent.2001). It is clear from the many cases coming before the courts in England and Ireland, that the higher socio-economic groupings are the main yet not exclusive users of this new technological deviance, this was clear from Operation Amethyst (Irish Times.2002) and was reinforced by experts in this field who were interviewed on an RTE, Prime Time programme on this subject on the 31st May 2010.
For generations Irish people were constrained by the condemnation of all, but normal marital sexual relations by the Catholic Church, however, following the Ferns, Murphy and Ryan reports into religious child rapists that constraint is laid bare, the constraints of moral and religious teaching for generations, has been sharply lifted by the expose of the Catholic Church and the voyeuristic and lurid material of a newly liberated technological era. One would be a fool to suggest that sexual deviance is not a marketable commodity, however, with that marketing must come responsibility. Tony O’Neil CEO of Palmstories.com one of the biggest providers of porn on the internet and mobile phones says of the industry:
As far as the web is concerned, pornography has always been at the cutting edge technology wise, the industry is worth billions of dollars generating more money than music or movies (Irish Times. 2001).
Emer O’ Kelly told us in the Sunday Independent, that she and other citizens are scourged by sexually explicit pornography, that is sent to them via the internet, into the privacy of their own homes, yet this is not illegal. Supply and demand for lurid and voyeuristic material and sexual stimuli for an evermore voyeuristic public and deviant sub-cultures there in, are growing unhindered, and sections of the media have not been wanting in feeding that demand and exploiting the aquiesants of the Government and others who turn a blind eye to this moral quagmire. Prof. Paul O’ Mahony (1996) says:
Pornographic portrayals of the relations between men and women and adults and children permeate our society. Pornography inevitably plays an important role in forming sexual attitudes and quite possibly, in facilitating and promoting sexual crime (p.219).
ISPCC Chief Executive, Paul Gilligan, reacting to Operation Amethyst, supported this view expressed by O’ Mahony in that pornography can facilitate crime and can be an integral part of sexual criminality when he said:
There is clear evidence from other countries that those in possession of child pornography represent a real risk to children and that those who actively purchase such material represent a greater risk. Some of the biggest paedophile rings and the most compulsive paedophile offenders have been caught on the basis of storing this type of material (Irish Independent.2002).
That said of course, the many thousands of religious child rapists including Homophiles, Hetrophiles and Paedophiles who operated within the Catholic Church would not have had access to such pornographic material in the 1940s/50s/60s and so forth. The ever more voyeuristic public and particularly those with a distorted sexual script there in, as set out in this article, are vulnerable to the detrimental influences of deviant literature and photography and persons outside this profile, who lack countervailing influences, particularly the young, can be taken along on a tide of sexual deviant activity and criminality. The conviction in England in May 2010 of two ten year old boys for the attempted rape of an eight year old girl, begs the question, why are children engaging is such activity, they did not learn it from watching the Telly Tubbies or Bosco.
In a survey published in July, 2002, the National Centre for Technology in Education found that 73% of 8-10 year old children had internet access at home. In an RTE Prime Time investigation aired on the 31st of May 2010, it was shown that 99% of children now have access to the internet at home. The report in 2002 further stated that as many as 25% of children with internet access at home had encountered pornography on the internet. In the Prime Time programme in 2010 this number is much greater and the dangers posed by chat rooms and social networking sites are an ever increasing danger. This normalising of deviant activity by the pornographic web sites, other sections of the media and an acquiescent Government and others have lowered the barriers, and provided a constant stream of images and literature to create and feed unhealthy and grossly unrealistic fantasies. The great disappointment with the Prime Time programme was that it failed to address the role played by the tabloids and other media in normalising and facilitating sexual crime, and rather seemed to suggest that it is only those sites that exchange child pornography or have a cyber contact element that pose the only threat to children, again enforcing the image of the paedophile, homophile or hetrophile as a man in the cyber bushes wearing a rain coat.
What is important to remember about deviance, says Young (1973) is that:
Deviant behaviour….is a meaningful attempt to solve the problems faced by a group or isolated individual – it is not a meaningless pathology (p.42).
Young’s proposition raises the question, Why does society prefer to decry rather than confront sexual deviance in an open and constructive forum? May explanations can be offered and some have been put forward in this paper, however, unlike ‘homosexuality’ other sexual sub-cultures particularly those relating to child sexual abuse, cannot be so easily set out side the dominant sexual culture. It is perhaps this fear of examining too closely sexual crime and particularly sexual crime against children (Operation Amethyst, Ferns Report, Murphy Report, Ryan Report) that allows the hard line consensus to square their shoulders and shout ‘hang them’, however, as we have learned in Ireland, it is usually those who shout the loudest that do so to conceal their own crimes.
If the figures, relating to sexual crime in Ireland presented in this article in terms of Operation Amethyst and so forth are even close to the true extent of sexual crime, then one wonders in a population of less than four-million people, what family in the broadest sense is without its own difficulties. The recent revelations by Sinn Fein, President, Gerry Adams that he had known for decades that both his father and Brother Liam were child abusers, exposes the reality of how many dark secrets remain untold in Ireland. However, all is not lost as Brenda O’ Brien reminds us that:
An important Canadian study shows that untreated sex offenders have a 35% recidivism rate, while it is less than 10% for those who are un treated (Irish Times.2002).
When John O’Donoghue TD was Minister for Justice, dozens of convicted sex offenders applied to go on the sex offenders treatment programme at Arbour Hill Prison, the majority were told that there were no facilities to treat them due to lack of funding, this at a time when the Department of Justice spent vast fortunes on expensive trips abroad and squandered tens of millions of Euro on lavish expenses. Many within the hard-line consensus like British Home Secretary, Jack Straw (1997-2001) who introduced ill considered and punitive measures against sexual deviance, found that he had to build the scaffold close to home when his brother was charged with sexual crimes against two young girls in 2000. In July 2001, the Taoiseach’s Office was quick to play down reports that it was the subject of a major investigation by the Director of Equality, into allegations of serious sexual harassment against a former female employee. While some Cabinet Ministers, had in the weeks prior to these allegations against the Taoiseach’s Office been able to illegally comment on certain cases of a sexual nature before the criminal courts, the Taoiseach’s Department had ‘No Comment’ in relation to its own dirty laundry that was being hung out in the public arena.
This hypocrisy is not exclusive to weak politicians, in 2005; The Editor of The Star paid a sex offender who had just been released from prison 400 Euro for photographs of the said sex offender. The said sex offender had asked a friend to take pictures of him as he walked in O’Connell Street on the day he was released from prison, the said sex offender then sold these photographs to The Star for 400 Euro, the following day The Editor of The Star published the photographs claiming that a Star photographer had ‘captured’ the pictures as he seen the said sex offender on O’ Connell Street. The Editor of The Star continues to be a paid guest on many Irish television programmes where he continues to lecture the Irish public on matters of morality and good citizenship.
The vitriol expounded by certain sections of the media for those accused of sexual crime, particularly against children, it is not a new phenomena. In the not too distant past ‘homosexuals’ were the target of the editorial ‘moralists’. In the 1980s and 1990s Ireland’s sexual closet flung open with a vengeance and from this sexual expose, homosexuals were reluctantly ‘accepted’ into the status quo as an oppressed sexual minority, as opposed to a ‘sexually deviant sub-culture’. Such is the strength of the ‘homosexual’ lobby today in the UK and Ireland, that laws have been introduced to reflect a more liberal approach to the gay community. What ‘was’ seen as being seriously criminal by the Governments of the UK and Ireland a few short years ago is today not only ‘tolerated’ but is legislated for. Sexual activity with a child must remain criminal as no child can consent to such activity, however, child protection, community safety and crime prevention cannot be delegated to certain weak politicians and editorial ‘moralists’, whose only motivation respectively is self preservation and gross commercialism.
Cross (1979) quotes Lord Summers, to sum up, attitudes to homosexuality before the prevailing liberalism:
Persons who commit the offences now under consideration seek the habitual gratification of particular perverted lust which not only takes them out of the class of ordinary men gone wrong, but stamps them with the hall-mark of specialised and extraordinary class as much as if they carried on their bodies some physical peculiarity (p.366).
In a more contemporary address of homosexuality, Monsignor, Andrew Baker of the Vatican’s Congregation of Bishops said:
Homosexuals may be more familiar with certain patterns and techniques of deception and repression…Nor can a homosexual be genuinely a sign of Christ’s spousal love for the Church…if the homosexual could be healed from such disorder, then he could be considered for admission to the seminary and possibly to Holy Orders, but not while being afflicted with the disorder (Irish Times.2002).
In deed these words may well have meant something if they were not being uttered by a representative of the Catholic Church, a Church that has concealed the rape of thousands of children across the world at the hands of Homophiles, Hetrophiles and Paedophiles within the Catholic Church. An interesting observation that I make in relation to the current trend by certain sections of the media to burn male sexual deviants, alleged or real, at the stake, while excusing their female counter parts as being mentally ill. Is the fact that a number of journalists who belonged to the once flogged sub-culture of ‘homosexuality’, set aside more than a fair share of column inches to condemn the deviance of recently emerging sexual sub-cultures. Perhaps these individuals unsure of their own membership of their particular group need to vilify others for some form of security and acceptance into an uncertain world. Why do these journalists create the illusion that all religious child rapists were paedophiles when in fact over 95% of them were Homophiles, this misinformation helps to create the illusion that certain sections of society do not rape children, when the evidence is very clearly to the contrary.
However, out of this vilification and recrimination needs to emerge rational and reasoned debate about how to develop best practice in child protection, crime prevention and community safety, how many lives could have been saved if the ‘Gay’ debate had not been left for so long in the hands of the ‘moral’ guardians in the media and politics. The difficulty with the supply of lurid and voyeuristic material in the media and especially that which feeds the habits of those with a distorted sexual script and facilitates sexual crime in general (O’ Mahony.1996), is that it normalises deviance in the minds of people already suffering from a variety of psychological, emotional, moral and social crisis. Many sex offenders come from non-nurturing back grounds; they can’t express their emotions or even ask the questions that could set them free from a life time of mental torture (Casey.1999). A Press Ombudsman is a good start to setting some standard in a run away media, however, much more needs to be done if another generation are not to be morally bankrupted by those who help normalise and facilitate sexual crime in Ireland.
 Journophile is the term used to describe those persons who write or contribute to those media outlets that facilitate and normalise sexual deviance by way of their objectification of men, women and children through the advertising of perverted sex chat lines, pornographic imagery or lurid sexual literature.
 Operation Amethyst was an FBI led investigation that identified people all over the world who had accessed, paid for and down loaded child pornography from the internet. 100 people were identified in Ireland including a Circuit Court Judge who would later have the charges against him dropped as the search warrant used to seize his computer was some hours out of date. The Judge in question had been one of the founder members of the now defunct Progressive Democrats, the ‘anti-corruption’ party.
One of the worst abuses is CNBC's "To Catch a Predator," a weekly feature starring Chris Hansen and local police entrapping pedophiles. It's a sick show conceived by sickos about sickos watched by sickos.
Thanks for your comments Guys - it is a big read but worthwhile I think - it took me a great deal of time to write it and it is good when people take the time to read it
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