Anne Hailes: Feelings run strong, as seen from the fallout of the recent rugby case
THERE are two positive outcomes following the recent trial of four local rugby players: the fact that the process in rape cases is now being scrutinised by the legal profession to arrive at a better way of trial and court appearances and the hope that young men and women might take heed of how degrading behaviour can effect all those involved.
Despite the not guilty verdict, the outcome has caused controversy, even more so the social media messages sent between the young men involved. Again, a warning to all of us that nothing is private – such depraved messaging will catch up.
And although in this case it's was young men sending these WhatsApp communications, young women are doing the same thing – and I'm told by one that all this is the result of watching pornography.
Mind you, it's hard to escape; even when looking for a photo of some subject to accompany an article, I have come across dreadful images on an innocent page. Feelings run strong, as seen in the recent case. I received the following letter:
TRIAL BY MEDIA
In our judicial system there is presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The jury can only return either a guilty or not guilty verdict. The jury cannot find that the accused is innocent. A not guilty verdict means that, in law, the accused is innocent.
The law, and justice, demands that the accused is treated as innocent and be allowed to carry on with his life. Not to do so is to render the courts a sham.
A not guilty verdict does not automatically mean that the accused is innocent. Equally a guilty verdict rarely conclusively proves guilt. There can be miscarriages of justice both ways.
The jury verdict in the recent case sparked street protests and social media commentary (#IBelieveHer). Contrary to the findings of the jury, protesters declared the accused to be guilty. Mostly the protesters were not present in court, did not hear all the evidence, observe the testimonies or hear the legal arguments.
The protesters were incensed that the jury did not return their desired verdicts. The protests were motivated by emotions, not in-depth consideration of the evidence.
Our justice system does not work that way. Thankfully.
A LESSON LEARNED
Now professional rugby players throughout Ireland are to attend workshops on ‘sexual health and relationships', and there will be a facility for women to attend workshops as well.
Why is this necessary for grown-up people? Don't parents instil the meaning of respect into their children? The vast majority do – grannies and grandpas also have a responsibility – but for some something seems to have gone wrong between childhood and adulthood. Sport, especially, is going through a rough time at the moment but in general we seem to be losing modesty and respect and a civil tongue at a speed of knots. The story rumbles on.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Apart from my union on the May Day parade, I don't support street protests because they are mainly emotional with no forward planning. What was the point of a handful of women with their children and blue balloons standing at the City Hall 10 days ago with a banner saying, Save Alfie Evans?
Save that poor little boy from what? The care of a qualified medical team? Surely better to show support by sending a donation no matter how small to the Children's Hospice.
And all those women who marched against sexual harassment did draw attention to their feelings but did they actually make any difference to the future?
The law was taken it into their own hands to examine their modus operandi with a view to improving it in the future. Rugby organisations are taking action and Equity is working on procedures within the acting fraternity. These things would have happened anyway.
And let's see the mayhem when professional protesters take on Donald Trump when he come to the UK. More useful is an organisation like the Women's Forum NI, an umbrella body for a number of women's organisation through the north. They support and lobby and, importantly to so many of us, it was their influence on authorities prior to 1976 to change the fact that women were forced to resign from the civil service upon marriage.
I know personally, I married ‘within the company' and like others had to leave the work I loved in Ulster Television. This happened in other areas like teaching and insurance companies. Thank you, Women's Forum, for making a change.
The nettle plant is known for its stinging properties but apparently it has been used in traditional medicines for centuries. I remember when I'd pains in my shoulders after badminton, I slapped my back with a bunch of nettles and it helped – one pain was replaced by another maybe.
It's said that extracts of the leaves have been used for the treatment of rheumatic disorders and that the juice will stimulate hair growth when applied to the scalp.
I have cooked fresh nettles as a vegetable and no-one knew until we'd finished, and made passable tea.
And butterflies love the leaves so they will welcome a project being run by RSPB. Members are collecting nettle roots to be transported to Rathlin Island to encourage the corncrake to come and nest under cover of the plant.
I was talking to a friend last week who says these birds are to be heard ‘in abundance' in Ballyliffin, Co Donegal, although someone might be doing what we did as children and flicking a finger nail down the teeth of a comb – the resulting noise is very convincing and the word went out that we had corncrakes in the garden.
If you would like to take part in the Giving Corncrakes a Home project and volunteer to collect plant roots, get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org