, Among the ‘‘slaughtered innocents" that I Jittered tin.* il ioi- of the House, of Ueprsrcntativcs at the end of tho justconcluded session was a Bill providing for an amendment of the Crimes Act. with a view to the greater protection of the honor of our girls. It j proposer! to raise tho age of consent to 18 years, and thus to guard against' young girls of immature judgment and .small experience of the world being victimised by tho wiles and subtle addresses of designing men. Why the- passage of this beneficent measure was not proceeded with we are somewhat at a loss to understand. Ono can scarcely conceive that it would encounter any opposition because of its main principle. The urgency of this reform lues been long appreciated by the enlightened portion of tho community. Oreat credit is to be ascribed to the Women’s Christian
Temperance Union for the insistence they have laid for years past npon this need of 1 more securely bodging round the chastity i of girls of tender years. It may be that the Bill ms a whole was allowed to drop because there was blended with a wholesome provision a, provision of dubious, if j not of vicious, character. Before any [prosecution for criminal assault upon a young woman was permitted the. Bill stipulated that, the consent of the AttorneyGeneral should bn obtained. It is n.-t difficult to discover the reasons which dictated the insertion of a. clause t~- that effect . There aro designing women as veil as men, and many that arc young in years are cld in crime. It it- > egret table, lust not tho leas true, that many a girl raid tiro ago of 18 years has become skilful in tho spreading of snares for the nnw.iry fcct of young men. Bui worse than that blackmailing is a real danger in offences respecting women. The shielding of the real culprit and the fastening of blame upon the innocent are by no means unknown, and wc can imagine no more pathetic humiliation than that which befalls tho, upright man against whom the finger of accusation is unjustly pointed in a matter relating to moral relations. Tim higher tho point to which the age of consent is raised tho graver the menace from the unscrupulous woman. But the hazard run by the man of integrity or by the man too easily betrayed into indiscretion by the allurements exercised upon him is as nothing compared to tho need of throwing tho guardianship of the law around tho
virtue of bud-din" womanhood. Now tins guardianship will be a matter of speculation instead of certainty if it is made to depend upon the will of the temporary occupant of an official petition. Unfortunately, not all At tor n oy - G e no r a hj are incorruptible. The pressure of a powerful interest, the sinister influence of friendship, the too great potency of money may contrive on occasions to withhold consent to a prosecution which an unmixed regard to justice would not deny. Wc can well remember in the late eighties a case which illustrates the danger wo allude to. A wealthy nun of standing in the community committed an immoral assault upon a domestic servant employed hy him. Although the law did not- require tho leave of any public official before prosecution, strings wore pulled and subtetrancan st-ratagomd used to shield that man from the publicity and odium of a trial. Unly an explosion of righteous indignation on the part of the citizens saved an illustra- I tioa of Shakespeare’s indictment against that influence which makes tho strong lanes of justice break hurtless upon the sin plated with gold, hut. which enables a. pigmy’s straw to pierce a crimo that is diessed in rags. If public vigilance was needed to vindicate impartial justice under such conditions the public will well appreciate tho undesirability of furnishing j an additional opportunity for “robes and j furred gowns to hide ail.’’ There would probably not bo tho gauio objection to the i necessary consent of a Public Prosecutor, | such as exists in Kngland. In our | opinion, however, tho paramount interests j of justice demand that even innocent I men shall, when properly charged, have tc- submit to the ordeal of a public trial to | establish their integrity. Any departure j from this generally whokgom.Q principle is ! attended with possibilities of evil so numerous and various, as to occasion tho , gravest disquitude. Not as infrequently as one would wish, men have been accused by the artifice of the really guilty of embezzlements and crimes against the person and life which they did not commit. Thoro has been no Atloimey-Oonral to appeal to to arrest the prosecution. They have had to undergo the humiliation of trial to demonstrate their guiltlessness. Why
should an exception be made in the case of offences against women? They are certainly not less serious, and if it is a. littlo easier than in most crimes to brand with accusation the just, there exists no sufficient reason for discrimination. Wo trust that when the Bill is introduced next year it will give the essential protection to the maidenhood of our girls umveakened by any stultifying interventions of political officials like the Attornev-Gencral.
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Evening Star, Evening Star, Issue 15650, 14 November 1914
Evening Star Evening Star, Issue 15650, 14 November 1914
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