We may be surprised of the open acceptance in the USA that judges are political and that their personal views can influence the conclusions that they reach in court: the nominations made by the President for the Supreme Court therefore being considered to have potential political and social consequences. In the UK, we still cling to the notion that justice is blind, although works such as Griffith’s “The Politics of the Judiciary” argue that such a belief in the UK is less well founded than we may have hoped.
Unfortunately, the allegation of sexual assault made by Professor Christine Blasey Ford against the presidential nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, had the potential, therefore, to become mixed up in the world of politics. I accept entirely that the resolution of such an allegation poses a number of difficulties, but what has been utterly unforgivable is President Trump’s ridicule poured this week upon the oral evidence given by the Professor. If this was not bad enough, he chose to do so at a political rally.
The evidence of the complainant was widely hailed as being “credible” and “compelling”, even initially by the President himself, so this is not an accusation that can simply be dismissed.
In reporting a sexual assault at all, a victim will have to get over a myriad of barriers, including feelings of embarrassment, shame (even if misplaced) as well as the fear of not being believed. In recent years, there has been great effort made to reassure victims to come forward and to train people to react appropriately to such accusations.
The President is meant to be a role model. I fear, however, that his actions will have set us back decades in respect of encouraging victims of sexual assault to come forward and make disclosures.
In ridiculing someone that has had the courage not only to make a disclosure, but also to give evidence and to have her accusation tested in the open, the President has shown not only a lack of compassion but projected both himself and the state as bullies. Any prudent individual in the position of President might have maintained a dignified silence and allowed the proper processes to take their course.
The one person that has come out of this unedifying spectacle as not being fit for office, is Donald Trump himself.