Balance of scrutiny

datePosted on 10:48, June 5th, 2009 by Lew

One of the major issues in this Richard Worth affair, like the Tony Veitch affair, is the degree of scrutiny to which the various parties are being subjected, and the degree to which their assertions are accepted without scrutiny.

Richard Worth’s motives, alleged actions and responsibility generally have not been subjected to significant public scrutiny or discussion (although his reputation has). The victim’s motives, supposed actions and responsibility for her position as a victim have been subject to a much higher degree of investigation; that is, expected to withstand closer scrutiny in order to be considered credible, as have those of her political agent Phil Goff. In most cases this has not been subtle, although some has.

I know, who’d have thunk it. Sexual harrassment victim held to account more strongly than alleged harrasser, sky blue and water wet. But this case, where the differentials in power and standard of acceptable conduct between alleged harasser and alleged victim could not be more stark, illustrates more than most why it’s arse-backwards.

But I think we are seeing a change in the public attitude toward this sort of thing. Although Louise Nicholas, Kristin Dunne-Powell and the anonymous victim here are still subjected to undue scrutiny and speculation, the media have in each case gradually begun to treat the incidents more seriously. As John Key is discovering, it is no longer politically viable to simply ignore this sort of thing and hope it goes away.

L

5 Responses to “Balance of scrutiny”

  1. What would Hayek say on June 5th, 2009 at 11:58

    hmmm – stepping out of the specific to the general. Is the underlying argument your making, that in the case of sexual harrassment, the presumption is “guilty until proven innocent” as opposed to the NZ tradition of “innocence until proven guilty”. NZ’s legal tradition is somewhat based on the latter, although continental and other legal traditions have used the former. There maybe a case that in some circumstances the former is preferable.

    An alternative interpretation is that the media cycle now demands more immediate response to events than what was the process by which society previous considered events. As a result historical/institutions which were built prior to modern media e.g. parliamentary conventions and the presumption of acceptng a Ministers word, are not keeping up with the new process. To restate – do we have a problem in our institutions where there current process and structure has been made technologically obsolete.

  2. TimM on June 5th, 2009 at 14:02

    This isn’t a sexual harassment case though Lew. If it were then it should have been handled through the police. Goff has decided it is to be a political case, he has brought it into the public arena. It is now a political matter that Goff wants to get mileage from. Let’s hope Goff can protect the woman’s identity, but I expect in the course of events that we are likely to see the copies of phone records and texts from both parties coming out in the open since Goff wants it to be tried int he court of public opinion.

    Captcha: and heaving

  3. Lew on June 5th, 2009 at 14:35

    WWHS,

    Is the underlying argument your making, that in the case of sexual harrassment, the presumption is “guilty until proven innocent” as opposed to the NZ tradition of “innocence until proven guilty”.

    Not really; it’s that the presumption of innocence (in the moral or ethical sense of innocence, rather than the strict legal sense) be extended to the apparent victim as well as the perpetrator (who is additionally entitled to the presumption of legal innocence). As it stands, the presumption of innocence is (rightly) used as a justification not to speculate too widely about the alleged offender’s actions or intentions, while (wrongly) it’s open season on the victim. This is unjust.

    I agree that there is a case for modifying (I wouldn’t say reversing) the burden of proof in some sorts of offence, but I’m not trying to make it here, only to require that the existing standard is applied more equally.

    TimM,

    This isn’t a sexual harassment case though Lew.

    Depends which case you’re referring to.

    If it were then it should have been handled through the police. Goff has decided it is to be a political case, he has brought it into the public arena. It is now a political matter that Goff wants to get mileage from.

    Come off it. John Key and Richard Worth, by prevaricating about “personal matters” opened the matter up to speculation, and Phil Goff didn’t mention a word about it in public until the cat was out of the bag.

    L

  4. jcuknz on June 5th, 2009 at 21:24

    A sad thing about this case from the woman’s point of view is the disclosure of both her political membership and her race which in a country like NZ narrows the field down from one in two million to a pretty small number I suggest. That is not right IMO.

  5. TimM on June 6th, 2009 at 16:08

    Lew – in terms who let the cat out of the bag, why do you think it was Key?
    “Mr Key has confirmed he previously investigated allegations that former Internal Affairs Minister Richard Worth harassed women but nothing came of it.

    Mr Goff’s allegation is understood not to be the one which resulted in Mr Worth resigning his ministerial portfolio.”
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/2467307/Goff-raised-earlier-complaint-about-Worth

    Can you find anywhere that Key introduced the details rather than Goff? IMO Key made a mention of previous allegations, but Goff appears to have been the one supplying the details. What would be the motive for Key supplying details?

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