remorse-manuscript-socialandlegalstudies-websiteedition.doc

One of the children was an 8 year old girl described

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position of trust. One of the children was an 8 year old girl – described in the judgement as ‘profoundly deaf’- with whom he embarked on an active sexual relationship when she was nine that did not completely end until she was 16. The other was a sexual relationship with his own daughter that began when she was four and ended only when the mother of the child- who had earlier been a co-participant- brought a complaint to the police. By the time of the hearing, Mr. P had already served his sentence which consisted 17
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of a term of incarceration plus a three year period of probation. Ultimately, in its decision, the committee acknowledged that his admission to the Law Society would turn on whether the members ‘accept(ed) his statements (of remorse) as true- “The Committee must now decide whether the applicant’s remorse is genuine or strategic and whether his inclinations to rationalize and justify his criminal behavior have been overcome[ P. ( D.M. ) ( Re )(1989):27].” At the same time, the judgement explicitly recognized the high stakes involved and that “for Mr. P, the motivation to express remorse is very great.” In effect, the task of adjudication required that the committee decide whether Mr. P’s expression of remorse reflected his inner belief that what he did was morally reprehensible or whether it was merely a ploy to obtain the benefit of admission. Here is their statement of how they decided it was the latter rather than the former(p.27): “Mr. P’s overall deportment throughout these proceedings is relevant to the Committee’s assessment of his credibility. When pressed about whether or not he believed that his actions had caused harm to his young victims, he was defensive and evasive. He gave his evidence listlessly, in monotone, except when he spoke about his desire to practice law. Then he spoke with emotion, with conviction. By contrast, he seemed somewhat indifferent to whether or not he had done harm to the children.” It was the absence of emotion to which the committee referred in its rejection of Mr. P’s expression of remorse as inauthentic and devoid of credibility. But what is the expression that will make credible the transgressor’s claim to feel remorse? What the juridical responses have in common is the expectation that some one who is truly remorseful will suffer for their transgression and that this suffering will be visible. Thus, in a case of criminal negligence causing the death of 7 month old child 18
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under her care, the offender is credited with ‘extreme remorse’ for her misconduct by virtue of the emotional pain that she is perceived to be experiencing - “I do not doubt that she is haunted continuously by the memory of the injury she caused to (the victim)( R. v. Lam [2004]: 20).” In another case, in which the offender was convicted of sexual abuse of his stepdaughters, the courts takes as evidence of his “genuine and profound sense of remorse, that he became depressed, so much so (that) he needed professional assistance( R. v.E. M. S. [ 2003]: 539).”
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