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Law and ordure

Judge Michael StokesBy Alexander Boot

Having admitted at his trial to the rape of a 13-year-old girl, Adil Rashid, 18, was facing four to seven years in prison.

Yet Judge Michael Stokes suspended the sentence, for reasons that make one doubt not just his sanity but also that of our whole society. In fact, this case could provide a valuable diagnostic tool in any psychiatric examination. However, lacking medical qualifications, I’ll have to approach the stated reasons behind such lenience from other angles.

Reason One: Since Rashid had gone to an Islamic faith school, he didn’t know that having sex with female children was wrong.

Now, Rashid was born, bred and educated in Birmingham, not in Dar-es-Salaam. Even if his environment could indeed ‘be described as a closed community’, as his defence attorney claimed, surely he must have ventured outside his school enough times to make such ignorance unlikely?

But even assuming for the sake of argument that he was indeed unaware of the difference between a child and a woman, or between a woman and a lollipop, as his lawyer also suggested, since when is that an extenuating circumstance? Certainly not since the Roman jurists first enunciated in no uncertain terms that ignorantia juris non excusat (ignorance of the law is no excuse).

Had Judge Stokes sent Rashid down for the full seven years, he would have therefore asserted a legal principle that operates in the law of every civilised country. More important, he would have sent an important message ‘to encourage the others’, in Voltaire’s phrase.

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