Hastings Fredrickson may sound like a porno name, but it isn’t. Well, in a way it is. As I will demonstrate, the admittedly criminal behavior of Fredrickson is treated more seriously than countless examples of actually violent and more reprehensible acts, including where people (read: men) have had their skulls fractured.
Fredrickson, who was an Australian defense contractor and before that an army commando, was convicted of three counts of using a carriage service in a manner “menacing, harassing or offensive.” A carriage service is simply British-based legal parlance for postal services, phone, internet, and other telecommunication devices.
In the case of one woman he had sex with, Fredrickson filmed the encounter, without her consent, and then distributed pictures to a number of colleagues. These colleagues, who all had associations with the military or Australian military contractors, called themselves “The Jedi Council” and exchanged graphic, pornographic, and sometimes illegal materials and references to the women they claimed to have had slept with (and proved through pictures and films).
Watch Your Language, Padawans
More surprisingly and alarmingly, Fredrickson’s convictions for offensive use of a carriage service (it’s pretty clear the sharing with colleagues was neither harassing nor menacing) included his detailed written accounts of sex with women. In this correspondence, he named the partners.
Although using the word “slut”, “moll” and other terms is far from the most genteel use of language, which I don’t seek to justify, it is mind-boggling to understand how such usage should generate criminal charges under an already amorphous concept of “menacing, harassing or offensive.” Better not come to Australia and write a book about banging Australian girls, Roosh! Or at least keep it off your email.
Fredrickson received a 15-month prison sentence. The water gets murkier here, as the sentencing judge ruled that the man be assessed for an Intensive Corrections Order, which lies somewhere between a suspended sentence (no jail but the term reinstated if a sufficiently severe additional offense is committed) and jail itself. The coming weeks will determine whether Fredrickson does indeed enter a penitentiary.
I have no problem with, and fully support, Fredrickson being convicted for filming his sexual encounter with the woman surreptitiously and then distributing it. The same goes for anyone else in the group proven to have passed on secret recordings of sexual encounters.
Losing Touch With Reality
What I do find troublesome, however, is the sentence handed to Fredrickson, irrespective of whether he serves full-time jail or not. Compared to physical violence, which encompasses both physical and psychological trauma to victims, the 41-year-old’s behavior was sternly punished. Such a stern sanction can be rationalized only if violent offenders are hit with even stronger sentences. Much of the time, though, they are not.
Ravshan Usmanov’s jailing for six months started the trend of often treating the publication of certain photos and films more harshly than rendering someone permanently incapacitated, in a coma, or otherwise leaving them fucked up physically. It shows no sign of abating, either. Jail the Usmanovs of this world, by all means, even for longer than six months, but at least bother to mete out every punishment according to the real severity of the crime.
The context of Fredrickson’s convictions is an intense, usually bitter debate about the place of women in the Australian military. Despite being admitted to the military with inferior (and quite frankly pathetic) physical entrance requirements, women in the armed forces are immediately allocated with a “victim badge”, regardless of whether they have experienced discrimination in the first place.
Combined with a general legal climate where a woman having her naked photos sent to someone else is frequently considered more heinous than many instances of exposing a human being to risk of death through serious street violence, it’s not terribly shocking that Fredrickson is still getting huge media attention.
The victim impact statements, which featured one from a woman who was just named in an email containing graphic descriptions of sex, were clearly listened to by the court. Sadly, it seems victim impact statements from those who are punched in the head, stomped on, and left to bleed are largely ignored when you evaluate the litany of times assault results in no criminal conviction, a good behavior bond or a suspended sentence. Maybe the judges’ belief that “boys will boys” explains it?
The Theory of (Criminal) Relativity
We could argue indefinitely about the “best” and worst crimes, in terms of the physical and psychological impact on victims. Having multimedia of you naked passed around without your approval is deservedly a crime, particularly if you did not consent to or know about the original production of that multimedia.
But similar to how someone breaking my arm is less grave than that same person deliberately shooting me in the head, disclosing private films and images of naked women (or men) should not be treated with as much contempt as actual physical violence, especially where it exposes a victim to close to life-threatening harm.
This is even more so for graphic emails only naming women. Whatever one’s opinion of the written content, the men involved had all coalesced voluntarily under the umbrella of “The Jedi Council.” The typed descriptions were not publicly disseminated in a literal sense, which would probably and justifiably attract the “offensive” part of a carriage service offense.
Criminalizing graphic writing of a sexual encounter, shared by choice between friends and where the partner is only identified by name, is nothing short of a slippery slope smeared with many jars of Vaseline.
Take a peek at the following three stories, bearing in mind for the first two that the first acts of physical violence received less than a slap on the wrist. For the third, the defendant received no proper punishment for even the most recent attack.
- Kieran Loveridge of Sydney killed 18-year-old Thomas Kelly, and assaulted another four young men in separate attacks on the same night. Loveridge had been given a mere good behavior bond for a previous assault.
- With a single punch Shaun McNeil, also of Sydney, ended the life of Daniel Christie, who died after falling into a coma. McNeil had had a multitude of prior assault convictions, for which the most “serious” sentence was a six-month suspended jail term. Cumulatively, the convictions before Christie’s death could have hit the offender with twelve years of jail-time.
- For fracturing a man’s skull, Tyran Pumpa of Canberra was sentenced to two years, eight months’ jail, mostly suspended to just one year of periodic (weekend) detention. Ridiculously, the judge knew Pumpa had preexisting convictions for breaking a man’s jaw (a crime where he received, yes, you guessed it, a suspended sentence) and punching a man in front of police. The victim with the fractured skull’s additional injuries were permanent hearing loss, recurring pain and a heightened danger of him developing dementia.
It’s worth reiterating that Fredrickson broke the law for filming his sexual partner and the subsequent sharing of photographs. I don’t defend, condone or otherwise seek to minimize his damaging choices and the effect it had on that victim (forget those who were named). But I will always subject them to a test of relativity. Under this scrutiny, the Australian legal system gets an F.