BOOKS: by John MorrisseyNews Weekly
GIRLS LIKE YOU: Four Young Girls, Six Brothers and a Cultural Timebomb, by Paul Sheehan
, May 2, 2009
When victims are denied justiceGIRLS LIKE YOU:
Four Young Girls, Six Brothers and a Cultural Timebomb
by Paul Sheehan
(Pan Macmillan Australia)
Paperback: 400 pages
Rec. price: AUD$24.95The book title, Girls Like You, reflects the mindset of a large number of young Australian Muslim men - in Sydney at least - which gives licence to a double standard in their behaviour towards young non-Muslim women.
Because these girls are young and unmarried, wear skimpy clothing, and enjoy considerable freedom to pursue their social lives, they are considered the "uncovered meat" of Satan, as former Mufti of Australia, Sheik al-Hilaly, notoriously expressed it.
The actions of the young men described in Paul Sheehan's account, who preyed without any sense of guilt on an unknown number of young teenage girls in Sydney in 2002, bore out the sheik's teaching that it was not the fault of the cat if he took the meat.Serial rapes
Early chapters describe the culture of Pashtun Pakistan from which the "K" family emerged and the inglorious early careers of the sons in Australia. Then the book describes, in harrowing and forensic rather than salacious detail, two episodes of serial rapes of young girls lured to the brothers' home.
Evidence collected by the New South Wales police included video trophies of the assaults, including one sickening violation which occurred while the victim was unconscious.
Compassion, empathy and growing respect for the victims imbue the pages of Sheehan's work. He also praises the efforts of the dedicated detectives of the NSW Police Child Protection Unit, the scorpion emblem of which adorns the book's cover - symbol of their enmity towards "rock spiders", the colloquial term for sexual predators on children.
But Sheehan devotes most of his attention to the nearly four years of trials which followed, and the ways in which the NSW judicial process is weighted to protect the rights of the accused, while sacrificing those of the victims. He shows how Sami and Amir K., in spite of conclusive and damning evidence, were able to string out the process by causing trials to be aborted, making farcical claims, and alternatively dismissing and engaging defence counsel, meanwhile costing the taxpayer millions of dollars and the victims their peace of mind, their education and most of their teenage years.
Readers might wonder, along with Sheehan. "what a 13-year-old girl was doing out at 11:30 at night with four men, and having [alleged] consensual sex with one of them", and, along with Judge Sully of the first concluded trial, believe that they (the girls) "behaved with breathtaking imprudence"; but that is not the point of this book.
The K. brothers used violent rape to punish these girls and to make a statement against Australian society, as well as to gratify their lust. NSW had just been through the similar cases of the Skaf brothers, Lebanese Muslim youths; and yet the legal system seemed more focussed on appearing to give every avenue of defence and mitigating circumstance to the accused, rather than giving justice to the victims.
Fortunately for the cause of justice, the only witnesses for the defence were the accused themselves and their families. All perjured themselves shamelessly, contradicted their own testimony and that of other family members, and alienated juries with vicious outbursts, foul language and even assaults in court.
The high points of the farcical proceedings included Sami K. hurling a pen at Sheehan in the public gallery, with a torrent of threats and foul language - when the jury was absent - and running amok in court, while throwing a glass to smash just above the head of the crown solicitor. On many occasions, the jury were treated to the same foul language, and once pelted with two pears which Sami had pocketed.
At times the brothers were more cunning, but at other times they feigned confusion, mental illness or paranoia about a conspiracy to punish them because they were Muslims, and on such occasions their command of English would deliberately come apart.
For Sheehan, the real heroes of the whole saga were three women: deputy senior crown prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, her assisting solicitor Sheridan Goodwin, and especially Tegan Wagner - one of the victims and the person to whom his book is dedicated.
The prosecutors worked relentlessly for the convictions and managed to secure hefty yet inadequate sentences for the K. brothers; but Tegan's fortitude and tenacity were nothing short of unique, when one considers the sorry story of sex crimes and the treatment of the victims in the legal system.Callous cross-examination
In one trial she endured not only harassment from the accused - in breach of the Evidence Act - but the most sustained and callous cross-examination by a defence counsel tag-team that could be imagined.
Legal aid for the three accused provided $4,000 a day for Adam Morison to badger Tegan with 856 questions, Keith Chapple SC (683 questions), and Andrew Haesler SC (432 questions) - a total of 305 pages of court record - and she did not yield an inch in her testimony. It is to her credit more than to our legal system that justice was done.Girls Like You
is unapologetic about condemning political correctness and the adversarial judicial system for turning justice upside down. It is a challenging and angry book to read, but nevertheless inspiring.