By Patrick Brogan
Much has been made of the sentencing of former The Irish Times sports journalist Tom Humphries. Most rational people agree given the seriousness of the crimes committed, it was far too lenient. Many journalists like Matt Cooper and Dearbhail McDonald took to Twitter to express their shock.
Humphries received a two and a half year sentence, but it is likely he will be out in about 20 months. This is around the same length of time he took to groom a teenage girl for sexual practices and then carry them out. The callous and predatory nature of his actions are begging for a longer sentence. He might be in prison for less than two years, but his target will have to live with his decisions for the rest of her life.
Added to this, is the grief that he has caused his family. This would be extremely stressful under ordinary circumstances, but we have to factor in that it was his own daughter that discovered the text messages that led to his arrest. What must she must going through? Another of his victims. Victim is usually a word frowned upon but what other word could be used when it comes to men like Humphries and the young people he has preyed upon and destroyed?
The worry is what will happen when he comes out of incarceration. Will he go on to offend again? Clearly there are deep-seated issues here and while I’m no psychologist, it stands to reason that it will take longer than two years for these to be sorted out.
So, what is his real punishment? The judge that sentenced him, Karen O’Connor said; “The higher the profile and success of a member of society, the greater the fall”. Is that his real punishment? Stripping him of his social status? One can’t help wonder if he was an unemployed and relatively unknown member of society would his sentence and the media coverage be different? It would have went along the long the lines of vile scumbag weirdo gets life.
If this is the new punishment, it seems it hasn’t worked. High profile people like Donal Óg Cusack, David Walsh and Eamon Dunphy have all said they at different times supported Humphries as a person, if not the crimes he committed. In a case like this, it so personal and impossible to separate the person from the vile deeds. Compare this to Harvey Weinstein in the US and his shunning from society. And he hasn’t been convicted of anything. This is in stark contrast to Humphries’ treatment on this side of the Atlantic.
There is a question of remorse here. Part of the reason for his lenient judgement was he pleaded guilty. But, this was further on in the case and was not his automatic choice. It looks like he, or his legal team, seen what way it was heading and pled guilty to get a better sentence, not as admission of guilt. As already pointed out, it would not have been known of if it wasn’t for his own daughter. One should never assume what is going on in a person’s head, but from the outside, it looks like Humphries is sorry he was caught rather than sorry for the acts he committed.
Humphries’ actions further erode the trust in society. As a father, as a coach, as a journalist and as a person. What is society if not a set of agreement upon conditions? People like Humphries push society closer to upheaval. This is echoed by the legal system and those in the media that support him. This may seem slightly exaggerated but it’s thousands of acts like this that has Ireland in the condition it is in today. And the individual lives ruined. Where is their justice in all this?
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