I have been following the rather unusual case of Justine McNally in the press dears. It is deeply sad to the point it has all the makings of a Greek tragedy.
The case concerns a Scots transgender teenager, Justine McNally, now 18 but 17 at the time of her offence, who disguised herself as a goth guy named Scott in order to have sex with a girl. “Scott”, from Glasgow, went online to seek out partners and entered into a relationship with one teenager in London who cannot be named. At this time Scott was 13 and her victim was 12. They met in 2011 when the girl was 16 and they had consensual sex. The girl was a virgin at the time and they had sex twice more. It is understood that Scott claimed to be shy and their sex sessions took place under the covers in a darkened bedroom. Scott further promised to marry his victim and talked of them having children.
Scott’s identity was exposed when a family friend of the victim went into his backpack and found a bra and a strap-on. The friend told the girl’s mother who after dropping McNally at a train station, told her daughter that her boyfriend was actually a girl.
Justine McNally was thereafter arrested for Sexual Assault. Her defending counsel, Keith Thomas, described Justine as “confused” about her gender issues, whilst David Markham for the prosecution stated ” She obtained consent to physical intimacy between them by fraud. The case involves a very serious abuse of trust.” Justine plead Guilty and on Friday, 22 March 2013 she was convicted of six accounts of Sexual Assault by Penetration at Wood Green Court, London. Judge James Patrick sentenced her to three and a half years imprisonment and ordered her to be placed on the Sexual Offenders Register for life.
“You put your feelings before those of anyone else”, said Judge Patrick, summing up, “You have had a troubled history, but without wishing to minimise the effect of that on you, it’s no more remarkable. You found the process of puberty complicated and had problems coming to terms with your sexuality. Clearly you didn’t appreciate the seriousness of what you were doing. You are an upset, distressed young woman, but the offence is so serious that a custodial sentence must follow.” The judge further ruled that she would serve her whole sentence before being released on licence.
I have several problems with this case. Whilst in no means demeaning the trauma McNally caused her/his victim, I would immediately take issue with the wording of the defence counsel, that McNally is “confused”, and that of the judge when he stated “You found the process of puberty complicated and had problems coming to terms with your sexuality.” Both utter nonsense.
Anyone who goes to the lengths of asking for sex under the covers and in darkness in order to use a prosthetic penis to disguise their biological gender is neither confused, nor do they have problems coming to terms with their sexuality. The fact here is simple, Justine McNally is a man trapped in a woman’s body. To all extents and purposes, Justine IS Scott.
Without a doubt the judge was right in handing down a custodial sentence. I question however whether three and half years is proportionate to the crime. I further question the need for Justine McNally to be released on licence after the sentence.
As to placing Justine on the Sex Offenders Register for life, that just angers me. This means that in future, wherever she goes, and even if Justine McNally undergoes gender reassignment surgery to become Scott (which she may now be refused under the terms of her licence), she will have her name on the same register as convicted paedophiles, rapists, and other sexual offenders. Consider that some of those in the latter categories are not kept on the register for life, but can be cleared from it after a period of time. Why then should Justine McNally, whose crime appears to be lesser and who admitted her crime, suffer a harsher penalty? Consider also that those who find out anyone is on that register do not look into the reasons why but immediately jump to the, often mistaken, conclusion that they therefore must be a paedophile.
Without a doubt Justine / Scott is a manipulative individual who betrayed the trust of a young girl, and no doubt broke her heart into the bargain, and duly deserves to pay for that. But in sentencing her, I believe that the judge has shown complete misunderstanding of and possibly prejudice towards transgender people. Justine McNally may have destroyed her victim’s trust but Judge James Patrick has just destroyed her already tragic life.
I know many will disagree with me but it seems to me that Justine / Scott is a victim here too. S/he is a victim of a society which shows open prejudice towards anyone who dares to veer the slightest from the heterosexual “norm”. This is particularly true in Scotland where men are always expected to be “real men”, which all too often results in said men being brutal, unthinking, dare I say uncaring, thugs whose behaviour can at times border upon the psychopathic.
Perhaps had Justine McNally been brought up in a more caring and understanding society, she would have been able to explore her sexuality and gender further, been freely able to become Scott, and this tragic case would never have happened in the first place.