Ten days ago the sky fell in Auckland, judging by the hysterical over-the-top reaction from some women following a criminal trial for robbery and indecent assault on two 18-year-old German girl tourists.

The offender, a knife-wielding cowardly piece of garbage called Troy Clement, was found guilty on the robbery charge but acquitted by the jury for indecent assault.

Clement now resides at our expense in prison for three years where hopefully some awful fate will befall him. And the hullabaloo? Well, at sentencing three months after the jury's verdicts, Justice John Priestley expressed his surprise at the indecent assault acquittals, "given the clear evidence".

He then speculated that "perhaps the jury felt the foolishness of the girls venturing out alone at night into a park in a strange city, dressed as they were, plus the absence of DNA evidence, led to a reasonable doubt on their part".


It is unusual for a judge to speculate on a jury's motives but plainly, and in my view reasonably in this case, Justice Priestley felt it desirable to do so given the unexpected acquittal.

Nevertheless, his well-intentioned remarks induced the predictable mindless Pavlovian reaction from the usual suspects. Two spokeswomen, respectively from the Sensible Sentencing Trust (despite this being a non-sentencing issue) and a Rape Prevention outfit, duly poured venom on the judge for "victim-blaming", ignoring that he had not expressed a personal view but instead advanced a possible explanation for the jury's surprising decision.

By far the silliest criticism of Justice Priestley came from barrister and feminist television series presenter Catriona MacLennan, whose comments devalued her credibility on other fronts, notably her excellent work for animal welfare.

Writing in the Herald, she asked why shouldn't women be able to walk safely through an unlit park at night? Grow up, girl. The answer is because you might be raped, or, alternatively, assaulted, robbed or murdered. It's nothing to do with being women, the same danger faces men who in fact, rape excepted, are by far the greatest victims of unprovoked assaults.

That's because they're less risk averse, women more sensibly ensuring they don't place themselves in harm's way to the same extent.

As a barrister Catriona MacLennan should know that statistically, there were almost certainly women on the jury and it wasn't a male attitude thing as she implied.

She then descended into childishness.

"Why should we women remain imprisoned in our homes at night?" she wailed, as if going out to dinner, to functions, the theatre or whatever, can be equated to walking alone in the dark through an unlit park in an unfamiliar country.


"Perhaps it's time for more Reclaim the Night marches," she then threatened. God save us from the quixotic spectacle of drowning wet parsons and large banner-wielding women, in both cases implausible rape victims, despoiling our streets with such futility. They might just as well march coatless without umbrellas in the rain, complaining about the weather.

Rape is as old as humankind and marches, etc, will not stop it. In Saudi Arabia rapists are beheaded, in Singapore they're hanged, in China shot and in Texas, electrocuted, but rapes still occur. Furthermore it happens with most species, whether sparrows or gorillas. But although the offenders are male, 99.999 per cent of men are not rapists andfeel just as outraged as women do about it.

Those young German girls were very silly. They come from a country with a unique characteristic, unmatched elsewhere, of an abiding civility, but nevertheless, hardly rape-free with about 8000 reported cases annually.

Once again, as I've written before, it raises the spectre of a foreign journalist investigating the appallingly high incidence of rapes and murders committed against female tourists to this country, unmatched on a per capita basis by any other Western nation.

At the very least we should issue pamphlets to incoming tourists about the need for caution.

Life is full of risks, which is why we buy insurance, wear safety belts, lock our doors, don't holiday in Somalia or, as plainly needs to be said, walk alone through dark parks at night.

As Daniel Defoe implied 300 years ago when referring to his seeming "presumption to reason against the general humour and disposition of the world", some things still need to be said, such as when that disposition is foolishness as exhibited in bucket-loads by Catriona MacLennan against someone whose position prevents him defending himself.

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