Media Ethic Case Study

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Shaan Yen
Studet ID number: 1241413
Paper code: 285008/16
This essay looks at the ethics involved in a high profile sex offence case recently dealt with in the Auckland District Court. The case was published in the New Zealand Herald on the 3 September 2011. Kantian and Utilitarian theories were applied in discussing four different perspectives of the key participants; The Judge, The Offender, The Victim, and The Public. The Judge, Philippa Cunningham, discharged the offender without conviction on a charge of performing an indecent act. In her summary, she stated that “he had stopped drinking, paid a high price in his personal and work life, and had shown remorse.” (“Outrage at comedian's sex abuse discharge”, 2011) Then she went on to say that “He’s a talented New Zealander. He makes people laugh. Laughter is an incredible medicine and we all need lots of it,” (“Outrage at comedian's sex abuse discharge”, 2011). The Judge granted name suppression. The Court heard how “the man went to bed with his partner after returning home drunk from a Christmas work party in December 2009. After he fell asleep, his daughter got into bed with them.” (“Outrage at comedian's sex abuse discharge”, 2011) The offence was apparently committed a short time later.

The first key perspective is that of the Judge, Philippa Cunningham. The Judge is a judicial officer whose responsibilities are defined in law. Basically the Judge has to administer the law without personal bias or external influences. The newspaper article does not suggest that she acted outside her jurisdiction or powers. The public reaction takes issue with her explanation for failing to enter a conviction against the offender. He left court a free man without any record against his name for this offence, despite the fact he had pleaded guilty to the charge. Kantian theory would require the offender’s act to be considered in the matter of the motive “No Moral worth in doing something because of one’s natural inclinations”. If there is no moral worth in his act, it follows that the act was immoral. He failed to show a respect for the victim. The case failed to offer a motive for his act, it is implied that perhaps it was a matter of automatism (drunk). Utilitarianism theory states that “actions are to be judged right or wrong solely in virtue of their consequences and that nothing else matters.” So what are the consequences of the Judge’s decision? Certainly it was from the offender’s viewpoint, a right decision-he was discharged without conviction. The most important viewpoint was not discussed in the newspaper article. That is the viewpoint of the victim. One can only surmise that the victim is left in some state of limbo in respect of the offence. It appears that she is receiving counseling. Not least important are the effects on future potential offenders who now may cite this case as a precedent. The judge is supposed to consider the deterrent value of a conviction and custodial sentence. In this case, it would seem that her decision was based on “Classical Utilitarianism”, that is “the only thing that matters is the amount of happiness or unhappiness that is caused.” However, “no one’s happiness is counted as more important than anyone else’s” and the judgment appears to have ignored the victims happiness. Despite the fact that the judge considered the case was “extraordinary”, she remarked “the consequences of a conviction would outweigh the gravity of the offence.” (“Outrage at comedian's sex abuse discharge”, 2011)

The second key perspective is that of the unidentified comedian who’s the offender in this case. Although he pleaded guilty to the charge, his explanation was based on being drunk and not knowing that he had committed the offence. The Judge quoted a forensic psychiatric report, which found “the man had precious episodes of “unusual behavior” after going to bed drunk.” (“Outrage at comedian's sex abuse discharge”, 2011) The report said that “it...
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