I find it hard to write about the parole report on Brad Shipton, or the media's coverage over the last few days.
"Should Brad Shipton be in jail?" "Do I want Brad Shipton to be in jail?" "Am I glad that he's going to remain in jail?" I can't answer those questions, haven't been able to months now. I keep on meaning to explore my ambivalance here, but I don't.
On top of that, I'm deeply suspicious of Brad Shipton's attitude towards the parole board. The way he treated women shows him to be a deeply manipulative person, who cares nothing about anyone else's feelings and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Bob Schollum was denied bail, at least in part, because the parole board decided that a rapist who claimed that rape was consensual, was a danger to rape again. To see Brad Shipton's contrition in front of the parole board as anything other than a cynical ploy to try and get released, requires far more faith in Brad Shipton's integrity than is warranted on the evidence.
But I still want to talk about the parole board decision (which is available in full here and worth reading, because the Sunday Star Times article on it bore almost no relationship to the report), because it reveals quite a bit about judicial thinking about rape.
Some of it is really good. The most quoted part of the report says:
He said he was sorry for what the victim went through and later went further and said that he had ruined her life. He acknowledged he should not have put her in that position and he should not have taken his colleague Mr Schollum along with him. He acknowledged that she was possibly intimidated by them. He confirmed that he did not ask the complainant if it was okay to have sex with her or for more than one person to have sex with her, and that wearing the police uniform was despicable. He said looking back on his whole life, which he has reflected on since being in prison, has been full of disgraceful, disgusting behaviour.I think they have laid this out very clearly; that even in his own version of events, it is clear that not only did she not consent, but that there were so many factors that made it impossible for her to give meaningful consent anyway.
In the Board’s unanimous opinion, what he described of the event was, in our view, one of rape.
While I was impressed with the parole board's analysis, I think the analysis of the psychologist was deeply problematic:
Suffice to say that that report outlines the details of the offence and Mr Shipton’s infidelities and involvement in group sex. At the time of writing the report, the psychologist was told by Mr Shipton that he denied the offence and that he had not accepted the jury decision. He thought his behaviour was immoral and unacceptable but not illegal. He told the psychologist that he had a bad jury and biased Judge and that he was very bitter and angry following the Court decision. He was able to identify risks in the future such as a situation of indulging in promiscuous behaviour and not being faithful to his partner would be risky for him.To me, what is so worrying about this, is that the psychologist appears to have accepted Brad Shipton's rationalisation that the problem was infidelity and group sex, and not lack of consent. But Brad Shipton clearly can't identify consent, so he's as much risk to a partner, as he is if he's having sex with other people. In fact, when asked in the dock, how he knew that the woman he raped consented he replied "the same way you know with your wife." That a psychologist report doesn't just not challenge, but goes along with, a moral view that condemns group sex and unfaithfulness, rather than centreing on consent, shows the very limited understanding our justice system has about rape.*
The report also indicates that Brad Shipton wasn't eligible for intervention programmes. I don't see prison as a way of eliminating rape, but it is clear that they're not even trying.
*Lets all curl up and die of not surprisedness