Putting our faith in the jus­tice sys­tem

The Compass - - OPINION - — Melissa Jenk­ins is a re­porter/pho­tog­ra­pher with The Com­pass

Af­ter the an­nounce­ment of nine men be­ing ar­rested in the prov­ince last week (see page A1) the lives of many New­found­lan­ders were shaken at the thought of their broth­ers, neigh­bours and friends po­ten­tially pos­sess­ing and dis­tribut­ing child pornog­ra­phy.

Charges of pos­ses­sion, dis­tri­bu­tion and ac­cess­ing child pornog­ra­phy have been laid in a ma­jor­ity of the nine cases, while one also has charges of voyeurism and mak­ing child pornog­ra­phy.

Af­ter hear­ing the charges, some res­i­dents of the prov­ince be­gan ques­tion­ing how well they know their ac­quain­tances.

A for­mer Baine’s Har­bour res­i­dent and fa­ther of two young chil­dren said it made him phys­i­cally sick to know his for­mer class­mate (who has not yet been named) was be­ing charged with such “dis­gust­ing” be­hav­iour.

Whether the ac­cused claim they “accidentally” clicked a link or some­one sent it to them, many ex­cuses will make their way through the grapevine by those be­ing faced with th­ese child ex­ploita­tion charges, es­pe­cially when few specifics have been re­leased.

Who wants to ad­mit they are in­volved in some­thing so grotesque? And based on the ex­pla­na­tion from RCMP of the pho­tos so far, grotesque is an un­der­state­ment.

In th­ese cases the ex­cuses will not hold up be­cause of the charges of mak­ing child pornog­ra­phy avail­able — also known as dis­tribut­ing.

Be­sides look­ing bad for the crimes they may have com­mit­ted, there are other rea­sons why ac­cused peo­ple cre­ate ex­cuses for il­le­gal be­hav­iour. It is hard to prove in­no­cence when the world knows a name and face. Many peo­ple may have al­ready de­ter­mined some­one’s guilty be­fore a trial.

Any­one with their eyes and ears open have prob­a­bly heard about the child ex­ploita­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing the ar­rest of 22 men —the nine from New­found­land and 13 oth­ers —from across At­lantic Canada.

When Gull Is­land res­i­dent Kyle Clarke had his name plas­tered all over the news and through so­cial me­dia, the mes­sage spread like wild­fire that he was guilty, which still may prove to be true.

When a name gets listed on a court docket, the jury pool shrinks. It shrinks even more when news out­lets cover the case, es­pe­cially in a high pro­file or wide­spread sit­u­a­tion. But when so­cial me­dia gets a hold of it, there may not be a big enough jury pool left with­out some kind of bias.

Also, very few lo­cals would want some­one they may see as a preda­tor in their neigh­bour­hood. So th­ese ac­cused men — who are in­no­cent un­til proven guilty — must carry on with their daily lives, at least un­til the end of their tri­als.

Some may say th­ese men are scum or per­verts and do not de­serve to be in­te­grated into so­ci­ety, but jus­tice is one of the ben­e­fits of our democ­racy.

The names of six of the nine ac­cused from this prov­ince, their birth­dates and home­towns have been plas­tered for the world to see. In­ves­ti­ga­tors could have with­held the names of the ac­cused, know­ing the life­long stigma that such charges will bring, re­gard­less of guilt or in­no­cence. But in our le­gal sys­tem, charges are not brought forth un­less there is a strong like­li­hood of con­vic­tion.

We can only trust that the po­lice have in­ves­ti­gated th­ese cases to the fullest, and hope that true jus­tice is served.

The chil­dren who are vic­tims in th­ese and other sim­i­lar cases de­serve no less.

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