By Stu Salkeld The Pipestone Flyer
When it comes to personal responsibility, I consider myself a libertarian.
Now, I’m not one of those John Birch Society, “The Government is Going to Come for Me in the Middle of the Night and take away my Guns” libertarians.
By libertarian, I mean the government should stop meddling in people’s lives and let people succeed or fail on their own merits. I can handle things on my own (I actually prefer to do so) and if I mess it up, it’s my own fault. To me, personal responsibility is very important.
It was for that reason I was angered by a court story I read online about a Red Deer man who’d been investigated, arrested, charged and convicted for sexual assaults against children and possessing child pornography. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out why I, or anyone, could be angry about that behaviour.
But something a defense lawyer said during a court appearance ignited my temper when it came to personal responsibility.
The pervert in question is a Red Deer resident named Stuart Hunt, 54; he was originally arrested last January and faced eight charges, including possessing, accessing, distributing and making child pornography, as well as sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching and making sexually explicit material available to a child. In court documents it was stated police found Hunt was in possession of thousands of pornographic photos and movies of boys as young as toddlers. Apparently during interrogation, Hunt admitted to sexual encounters with little boys as far back as 20 years ago, when Hunt was in his early 30’s.
The Crown was seeking 12 years in jail for Hunt, who didn’t come forward and turn himself in; an informant notified police Hunt was uploading child pornography via social media. If he had not been turned in, would Hunt still be active in child pornography and sexual assault? As well, the court was concerned about the huge pornographic library Hunt collected and the fact that he preyed on multiple victims over a long period of time. Not really facts that portray Hunt as remorseful or even deserving of mercy.
Now comes the kicker. After the molester pleaded guilty, Hunt’s lawyer, one Dan Wilson, was quoted in Edmonton media as saying, “Nothing this court can do can undo the harm that has been created.”
I cannot, for the life of me imagine a stupider, more inane or more spurious comment. I guess we should just drop the whole thing. Well, let’s just drop the charges again Hunt completely then. Let’s let him go free. Obviously, according to Dan Wilson, convicting him won’t do anything to help the victims or serve the cause of justice.
I recall reading something written by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) that struck a chord. In his book “The World as Will and Representation,” Vol. I section 62, Schopenhauer wrote, “…beside every possible motive for committing a wrong a more powerful motive for leaving it undone, in the inescapable punishment. Accordingly, the criminal code is as complete a register as possible of counter-motives to all criminal actions that can possibly be imagined…”
Schopenhauer himself claimed that other great philosophers such as Plato Seneca, Hobbes, Pufendorf, and Anselm Feuerbach agreed with his assessment.
As I pondered this, I realized Schopenhauer meant that if heinous crimes (such as molesting or raping children) are ignored, excused or treated lightly, such treatment not only fails in the realm of consequences or responsibility for the guilty, it actually encourages more crimes of the same type.
That’s because the guilty, indulging their personal tastes, know they’ll face little or no consequences for harming others.
Court convictions and substantial sentences for people like Stuart Hunt aren’t about erasing the harm they inflicted. Those sentences are about ensuring the guilty face consequences of their actions.
If that’s done, then justice is served.
Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the paper.