Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Polanski's tragic life no excuse for crime

After 31 years evading justice, an elderly self-confessed sex offender has finally been nicked. Cue wall-to-wall outrage in Luvviedom. How could the Swiss do such a thing to the poor man?!!

Roman Polanski is just the latest (celebrity) example of perpetrator posing as victim.

Back in 1977, when he was 43 years old, he assaulted a 13-year-old girl who was taking part in a photo shoot at his California home. He plied her with drink and drugs. Then he had sex with her.

To listen to his supporters you get the impression that the person we should actually feel sorry for in all this is not the abused child but the powerful man (in every sense) who took advantage of her, who was tried for that crime but who fled the country before sentence could be imposed.

True, there are reasons to have sympathy for Polanski in other respects. His life story reads like the script of a horror movie. His mother was murdered in Auschwitz. His wife, the actress Sharon Tate who was pregnant with the couple's child, was butchered by the followers of Charles Manson.

The man undoubtedly deserves compassion. But that does not excuse what he did to that little girl that day.

Polanski's powerful and rich friends argue that he has suffered enough (he has, after all, had to live in France for the last 30 odd years.)

Besides the child - now a middle-aged woman - has also said she does not want to see a court case proceed. Her life has been haunted by the assault and by the notoriety it has attracted. She sued Polanski and was awarded a payout. No wonder she just wants it all to be over. But how can it be?

If Polanski had been a working man he'd have been lifted and brought back to the US and justice years ago.

Hollywood might even have made a movie about it with the girl as the film's heroine. The glorious story of a wealthy, well-connected child abuser evading justice doesn't sound like the sort of plot that would usually be regarded as celluloid gold.

So why all the sympathy for the old devil in real life?

Polanski, after all, is just Gary Glitter in another guise.

Michael Jackson wasn't able to escape the courts (although he, it should be remembered, was found not guilty). So why should an award winning movie director be any different?

Why should there be one law for Oscar winners and one law for the rest of us?

Polanski, if he was to face justice, would be brought before a court in the US, not - as some in Europe infer - a medieval inquisition.

He'd have access to lawyers who will be free to argue all those mitigating factors which his supporters currently chirrup.

OK, so it would be a tough experience for a man in his 70s, but being sexually assaulted is also a tough experience for a girl barely in her teens.

And the most disturbing thing about this story is just how little look-in the real victims get.

Not just the woman at the centre of this story who, perhaps understandably, now just wants the whole saga ended.

But other sex abuse victims who must wonder at the inference that justice is not a necessity if (a) the crime happened a long time ago, (b) the perpetrator is famous and (c ) he's got no end of friends in high places.

Oscar winner or no, the man who made The Pianist should still face the music just like everyone else.

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