The DomPo editorial yesterday considers the subject of redemption – specifically of ex-Police officer Clint Rickards, acquitted with Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton of raping Louise Nicholas in the 1980s.
For many, Mr Rickards joining the ranks of lawyers, complete with rubber-stamp from the Law Society as to his character, has been too great an injustice to stomach.
I argued at the time, and still believe, that given Mr Rickards was acquitted of rape, and had completed the study of law required (it seems while he was suspended on full taxpayer-funded pay from the Police as a rape suspect), the Law Society had no choice but to accept him. He was acquitted.
The DomPo describes John Tamihere’s consideration of Clint Rickards for a role working with troubled youth as “an example-setting willingness to forgive”. According to the DomPo:
Mr Tamihere points out – entirely fairly – that Mr Rickards has faced the full force of the criminal justice system and been given the okay by the Law Society to proceed in his new career. More controversially, he also says the former policeman has a huge and distinguished police background.
This is, quite frankly, nonsense. However effective Mr Rickards was in the rest of his policing career – and I don’t pretend to know anything about that – the behaviour he admitted in being acquitted of raping Louise Nicholas as not “sexual excess” as the editorial so coyly refers. It was sexually coercive. It was abusive. It misused a position of power as a police officer and an older man. It was, according to many other women who have decided not to lay charges, the tip of a dirty iceberg.
It was, for many New Zealanders, so reprehensible it has made us reconsider if our rape prosecutions are letting women who are raped down. If there is something wrong with a justice system in which a teenaged young woman, previously a victim of sexual violence, can possibly be said to consensually choose sex with a group of older men who are police officers.
Because a jury accepted that, and acquitted Mr Rickard, Mr Shipton and Mr Schollum. And Louise Nicholas was criticised for waiting too long to complain about something she must have wanted to do really – or why didn’t she stop it?
We will never know if the verdict would have been different had the jury been informed that the latter two were already convicted rapists. They raped a woman much younger than them. The rape involved several men at once. The woman raped was later intimidated in an attempt to stop a rape complaint.
Does any of that sound familiar?
But redemption and forgiveness is only possible when the person concerned can front up and say “I did something I am ashamed of. I did something that was not ok. I hurt someone else just because I could.”
If Clint Rickards showed any remorse at all for the sexually abusive and predatory behaviour he and other officers in Rotorua were engaged in in the 1980s, I’d be the first in line to support him. I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who can own up to bad behaviour.
I have no respect for men who confuse sex with rape. I have no respect for police officers who cover up violence against women, collude with rapists or abusers, and essentially make it likely that men who hurt women will face no consequence. But other police officers – like the ones who pursued the Louise Nicholas case, the ones who challenge their colleagues to treat violence against women as the life-threatening horror that it is – have all my respect.
Being urged to forgive – be it Clint Rickards or Tony Veitch – before the person concerned has made any attempt to deal with what they have done is a false moral position. My soul hurts when I think of how little compassion the media shows to women who allege violence – and how keen many are to explain away, excuse, and forgive men, even when we know they have used violence.
So sorry, DomPo, I won’t be following John “Front Bum” Tamihere, that champion of women’s rights, in forgiving Clint Rickards. I would have liked just a little analysis from you about why a man with Mr Tamihere’s attitudes towards women might be likely to want to “forgive” Mr Rickards in the first place.
Forgiving Mr Rickards would be possible for me if I heard from him something that approached honest remorse.
I won’t, on events so far, be holding my breath.