Daytime TV presenter Judy Finnigan has been forced to apologise after claiming on ITV’s debate programme Loose Women that an act of rape committed by a footballer was “not violent” and “didn’t cause any bodily harm” to his victim who “had far much to drink.” Why?
I don’t mean “Why did some viewers feel sufficiently moved to vent their half-baked insights on Twitter?” That one’s a given: we live in a culture of licensed offence-taking.
Rather what I mean is: “Why was Judy Finnigan compelled to surrender to the social media Social Justice Warrior bully mob?”
“RAPE IS RAPE, JUDY. Moron,” observed one Twitter user, employing the popular “‘Shut up!’ she explained” technique beloved by social media campaigners.
No it isn’t. And this was the point – however clumsily – that Judy Finnigan was trying to make: as befits the role of a panellist in what is supposed to be a free and open debate programme in which strong, contentious opinions are expressed.
If all “rape” were the same, judges’ jobs would be a lot easier. All they’d have to do once the crime had been established to the satisfaction of the court would be to hand out the one-size-fits-all, standard rape sentence.
Does anyone – even the most rabid, #waronwomen crusader – think that such a state of affairs would be just or appropriate?
Well I’d hope not. There’s a world of difference between being raped at knifepoint by a stranger on a beach – as once happened to a beloved relative of mine – and, say, a messy student fumbling that went badly awry after the girl decided the next day once she recovered from her hangover and read an article by Lena Dunham that at no stage in the procedings had she announced her full consent, then signed it in triplicate in unicorn blood.
This isn’t an argument about the case of footballer Ched Evans in particular. (In 2012 he received a five year sentence – of which he served half – for raping a 19-year old girl in her hotel bedroom). It may be that he is thoroughly nasty piece of work who got off lightly. But we don’t know that. We weren’t there in the courtroom. Unlike the judge and the jury, we didn’t spend days carefully sifting the evidence provided by the prosecution and the defence. So, in the absence of any better information, we’d surely be best advised to trust to the decision of the court rather than responding with emotive and inaccurate slogans like “Rape is rape.”
In which case, the point Judy Finnigan was making was not unreasonable. “He has served his time”, she said of the footballer. “When he comes out, what are we supposed to do? Just refuse to let him do his job even though he’s already been punished?”
English common law is one of the bedrocks of our civilisation. So too is freedom of speech. What a sorry state of affairs it is when a woman who bravely speaks up for both these principles finds herself bullied into surrender by the kind of witch hunt mob from which both our common law system and our freedom of speech traditions have for centuries done such a fine job of protecting us.