Judge: 10-year-old "probably agreed" to sex

Nine Australian males get gentle slap on the wrist for sex with child.

Published December 11, 2007 1:25AM (EST)

Speaking, sadly, of gang rape: A reader just sent us a link to coverage of the shamefully lenient sentencing of nine males who gang-raped a 10-year-old in Australia. All nine -- including three adults and six juveniles -- admitted to having sex with the girl, but during sentencing, Judge Sarah Bradley concluded:

"All of you have pleaded guilty to having sex with a 10-year-old girl and (one of the juveniles) has pleaded guilty to having sex with another young girl as well. All of you have to understand that you cannot have sex with a girl under 16. If you do, you are breaking the law, and if you are found out, then you will be brought to court and could end up in jail. I accept that the girl involved, with respect to all of these matters, was not forced, and that she probably agreed to have sex with all of you."

I repeat: The judge said the 10-year-old "probably agreed to have sex with all of you." The nine males received a finger-wagging, suspended sentences and probation. Word of the sentencing, or lack thereof, was reported yesterday in the Australian and sparked outrage. It turns out, most of Australian society is of the mind that a 10-year-old cannot possibly consent to sex and already there are calls for Judge Bradley to step down.

As our e-mail tipster pointed out, the judgment is widely seen as an example of the "shameful neglect" of Australia's indigenous population. The victim is aboriginal and lived in the indigenous community of Aurukun. After being sexually abused and contracting syphilis at age 7, she was shuttled from foster home to foster home, eventually settling with a non-indigenous family. But, as an unnamed senior official in the Department of Child Safety told the newspaper, after nine months, social workers concluded that it was wrong to put "an indigenous child with white foster parents."

She was returned to Aurukun, where she was raped by the nine males in 2006 and contracted gonorrhea. What's more, a senior Child Safety officer knew that the girl had gonorrhea, according to the Australian, yet did not report it to police, as is required by law. Why? She said she was busy looking into the possibility of nonsexual transmission of gonorrhea.

Indigenous activists say the ruling sends a fearsome message to aboriginal women and girls about their respective rights. Child rights activist Hetty Johnston told the Guardian: "If this was a white girl in white suburban Brisbane there's no way the defendants would have walked out of court." Queensland Attorney General Kerry Shine is appealing the judge's ruling -- here's hoping for some better news, soon.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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