Neil Wilson's 12 month suspended sentence for engaging in sexual activity with a child, making indecent images of a child and possession of an extreme pornographic image has been referred to the Court of Appeal as a possibly unduly lenient sentence by the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve.
Sexual abuse of children by adult men is all too common in our culture. Very few cases actually receive national media attention, all too often these cases are only reported by local media. In this case, Court News UK were the only ones to report on the trial. What brought the Wilson case to the national press is that both the judge, Nigel Peters, and the prosecuting attorney, Robert Colover, used the word "predatory" to describe Wilson's 13-year old victim.
A 13-year old girl was labelled a "sexual predator" who "egged on" her attacker, but not by a defence attorney trying to mitigate the culpability of his client but by the prosecuting attorney and the judge during his summation. The sexual abuse of children is common but a prosecuting attorney calling a child victim a "sexual predator" is not. Numerous complaints were made to the Attorney General's office about the unduly lenient sentence Neil Wilson received. Complaints were also made to the Crown Prosecution Services and the Judiciary concerning the behaviour of both Colover and Peters.
The Attorney General has formally announced that Neil Wilson's case has been referred to the Court of Appeal. Both the BBC and the Guardian have run stories that seem to imply that the Attorney General magically knew about the Wilson case and chose to send it for review himself. This is, at best, disingenuous and, at worst, a deliberate erasure of the feminist activism responsible for bringing this case to the attention of the national media, the Attorney General, the CPS and the Judiciary.
The only reason that the behaviour of Colover and Peters is currently under review is because of the feminist activism of Ending Victimisation and Abuse [Everyday Victim Blaming]. They lobbied the national press to publish the story of this clear miscarriage of justice. It was the women of Ending Victimisation and Abuse who started the petition at change.org calling on the CPS to look at the language used by Robert Colover; a petition which over 55 000 people have since signed, most within 48 hours of the petition being started. It was the feminist activists of Ending Victimisation and Abuse who wrote letters of complaint to the Attorney General and the CPS.
The erasure of the activism of the members of Ending Victimisation and Abuse and their 2600 followers on twitter is not shocking but it is disgraceful. Ending Victimisation and Abuse campaign is less than 5 months old but they still managed, along with their twitter supporters, to force this case into the national media resulting in Prime Minister David Cameron being forced to make a public statement on the case. This is an amazing accomplishment, despite being one which should never had happened had both Colover and Peters been trained adequately in dealing with cases of sexual violence.
This case not only requires the Attorney General's Office and the CPS to investigate why it so badly mishandled, but it also requires them to take responsibility for allowing a culture to flourish within their organisations where this type of miscarriage of justice nearly went unnoticed. These cases do not exist in isolation and neither the Attorney General nor the CPS can afford to ignore the structural biases within their own organisations in relation to the prosecution of sexual offences. By ignoring the activism of Ending Victimisation and Abuse, the Attorney General and CPS, as well as the mainstream media, have placed this case within the realm of abnormal, when it is anything but outside the realm of normal.
Neil Wilson is one of numerous sexual predators whose personal culpability for their crimes has been minimised in our rape culture. Erasing the activism of Ending Victimisation and Abuse in the media reports of this crime just helps to perpetuate rape culture because it implies that the failures within the Wilson case are atypical when, unfortunately, they are all too common.
We need this case contextualised within a rape culture which consistently blames victims for being raped rather than holding perpetrators responsible for their crimes. The Ending Victimisation and Abuse campaign is a campaign against victim-blaming language and contextualising victim-blaming within rape culture.
It is ironic that in ignoring the activism of Ending Victimisation and Abuse in this case, the media have highlighted how important the campaign is.
Follow Louise Pennington on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LeStewpot