Hugging can now be a criminal offence

Did they know about Metoo ?

In the distant past, perhaps twenty years ago, the world was very different, almost unknowable. A glance at old TV ads on U-tube are a revelation and less trouble than making a laborious trip to the Natural History Museum in London to see dinosaur bones.

One of the most startling is for Impulse Body Spray, popular throughout the 1980s. An early one, from Ogilvy &Mather, shows a young man in a public street spotting a pretty woman, (they were seen in that binary way back then,) who then rushes to buy some flowers. He pursues her, wielding the bunch like a weapon, then thrusts them onto her.

Most puzzlingly to our modern eyes, the victim of this ‘micro-aggression’ looks delighted. A voice over explains, ‘Be Warned, Men Can’t Help Acting on Impulse, so if you see a man you’ve never met before who gives you flowers, that’s impulse.’

In another, an unfeasibly handsome white male can be seen doing the same; assaulting a young woman in the street with a bunch of flowers, and extraordinarily to our eyes, he is not arrested and charged with assault. The victims all look bemused for a moment and then pleased. Today, realising that their future lives had been ruined they would call the police.

Last August, a woman in Warwick did just that after William Freeman, 58, an ex-company director, put his arm around her and recklessly kissed her on her shoulder, neck and back of her head, without her consent, when they were on a roof looking at a wasp’s nest. Not pleased, she pulled away and he apologised.

After talking to her sister and partner about the incident she reported him to the police and he was arrested and charged with sexual assault. He originally denied a charge but changed his plea to guilty on the first day of his trial.

This week, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano, noted that he had never committed any misdemeanours before, not even a parking offence, and had not committed any more crimes whilst waiting eighteen long months to go to court. But she said she could not ‘belittle his crime’ and said; ‘This was an impulsive act. You have had a very serious lesson taught to you. You do not make advances towards women who don’t want you to. I am glad you have accepted today your responsibility for this, rather than putting this lady through a trial.

‘It is difficult to know what to say to someone like you. I don’t know what was going through your mind, and I don’t suppose you do either.’

Prosecutor Bernard Linnemann, said the incident has caused the woman ‘a great deal of hardship,’ she is now undertaking counselling, and living ‘a life of avoidance’ when she is out because she is worried about coming across Freeman.

He was given a 12-month conditional discharge and put on the Sex Offender’s Register for a year. No doubt many people would think his victim should have been spared further suffering by his getting a good long stretch behind bars.

By acting on impulse in that dreadful way, without gaining the woman’s consent before he kissed her, Freeman’s whole life and that of his family, has been changed forever; after a trip to look at wasps, he now finds himself joining 29,000 other criminal perverts, including the worse convicted paedophiles and child murderers in the country, on the Violent and Sex Offender Register.

This list, set up in 1997, when our society was beginning to worry much more about paedophilia, is run by the police and contains the details of anyone convicted, cautioned or released from prison for a sexual offence against children or adults. It was tightened up in 2003 along with the Sexual Offences Act, to include a much wider definition of consent. For the first time ‘hugging’ in public places by people under-age became an offence and some teenagers and children are now also on the register.

Freeman had to register with the police within three days of his conviction, to be photographed and give them his full name, address, date of birth, NI number, bank and Passport details. Visited by Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements Officers, he would have provided his internet service provider details, car registration and telephone numbers.

He must inform the police within three days if he changes his name or address or spends seven days or more away from home. If he and his wife decide to take a holiday, he will have to give them his date of departure; destination country, point of arrival, carrier, accommodation details, and date of return to the UK. I doubt if they will bother.

All his details are now on a national computerised database. No more damaging impulses for Mr Freeman as from now on his every movement will be watched and checks on him will continue after he has been removed from the register. He will never be able to work or have future contact with children. Head teachers, doctors, youth leaders, sports club managers and others, including landlords, are notified of the existence of a local sex offender on a confidential basis, but he will never be sure who in his local community has those details.

A life has been ruined and a severe penalty had to be paid. If you are one of those old-fashioned people, probably still using ‘old media’ and wearing BRUT aftershave, you might have trouble working out which life was destroyed, and where justice and common sense lay in this case. If you have doubts like that it shows that you have not yet embraced the new culture of consent.

In the US, where these forward thinking ideas originate, academics, feminists and writers and soon no doubt law makers, are discussing ‘hard ethical sex’ where consent must be gained not just at the start of sex but right the way through, from the pizza to the post-coital cigarette.

The idea of a man (or transgendered person,) giving flowers or anything else to a woman (or transgendered other,) without prior permission is over. Sexual opportunism, even at the basic level of flirting is of the past. Perhaps sex itself, at least seen as a frivolous recreation is over. Control those impulses, or there could be highly unromantic consequences for you and your family. 

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14 Comments on Hugging can now be a criminal offence

  1. There is a intriguing tone to Jane Kelly’s article. It is very flat and descriptive. Perhaps I am failing to detect a subtle irony.

    I get the impression that she does not know whether to condemn or support the new feminist driven sexual consent strictures. Her disengaged tone perhaps reflects the attitude of many of us. We watch life around us being transformed by (for want of a better term) revolutionaries of the politically correct movement and are powerless to do any more than comment on what we see.

  2. Each edition of the Metro free newspaper carries confessions of micro-aggressions committed by commuters. These commuters confess that while travelling on transport in London they cast the shadow of their unsolicited attention over someone else. They describe themselves as being in admiration of the victim’s physical characteristics without gaining the latter’s prior assent to do so. Indeed, the column in the newspaper itself describes these communications as ‘love (well lust)’.

    And as Christ declared in the Gospels, when a man looks on a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her. Updating this to inclusive language, as no doubt the Church of England would do, this must include any lustful look by any gendered person against any other.

    Meanwhile, back in the real world of the midnight horror of sexual predation, it took arson and murder before the abusers of the young girl Lucy Lowe from Telford were brought to justice. Previously, one of her abusers was not prosecuted after fathering a child on her even though she was only fourteen.

    • Jesus did indeed speak of “lust” as being a form of adultery, but admiration of a member of the other sex, including his/her physical attributes, is not the same as lust – strictly speaking – as I remind myself when I see that especially toothsome woman (30 years my junior) who sits a few rows in front of me at Mass.

  3. I don’t find anything ‘flat’ or ‘ironic’ about this article. Jane simply lets the (appalling) facts speak for themselves. This restrained, unemotive reportage only seems odd because we have grown used to the hysterical gushing of the mainstream media.

  4. Jolly Roger. It can be only a matter of time before we have separate carriages on the London Underground for men and women, with women on the lower deck of buses and men on the upper deck. The crime of ‘sexual gazing’ will surely be not long in arriving on the statute books. I can see the burka fitting in very nicely in this scenario. Nightclubs will be either banned or dancing strictly supervised with half the floor given up to females and half to males. Hard to know where transgenders will fit into this, a further subdivision of rail carriages to one in eight for transgenders?

    • I recall when there were “Ladies Only” railway carriages.
      What a pity that Warwick police were not the force investigating the disappearance of Charlene Downes. If they had been perhaps her murderers would not have got away scot-free.

  5. As William Freeman’s guardian angel said to him the day he was born in 1960: “Hello baby *Freeman*: your name has your future written all over it (not!)”.

    How long has it been since Italian construction workers last wolf-whistled at any woman, not just pretty ones? The average labourer used to think it a matter of honour to express admiration for all members of the other sex, no matter how plain, who were young enough to wiggle their hips? It was a matter of chivalry to do so.

    Where have we gone wrong?

  6. One should welcome the coming of the new age of puritanism, not be critical of it, today we have virtual reality to take over any physical contact between the genre fluid sexes, that should be enough.

    Just imagine if what this man did were to spread, surely a health a safety issue to start with, who knows what the lips of men may be in contact with before they land on the necks of these unfortunate women. More to the point, what if the kiss was just a quick surveillance of her neck, the next move could have been his hands on the neck, strangling her … And it could not be that any such seemingly innocent peck on the neck is but a prelude to some serious grooming e.g. Telford?

    Can you see the wisdom of the court case, punishment, now?

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