They must have large courtrooms in Queensland, because apparently half the country was in the public gallery when Justice Sarah Bradley sentenced nine boys and men for the statutory rape of a 10-year-old girl – and thus able to pronounce on the case with complete confidence.

I wasn’t, so might restrain myself to pointing out some of the facts, and some of the missing ones:

  1. No-one in the court denied that a crime had been committed;
  2. The incidents in question would appear to be several incidents of unforced s-x, possibly for money and cigarettes, not a forced gang-rape, as the official charge has portrayed it;
  3. We, reading the news reports, don’t seem to know whether the incidents were full penetrative s-x, or other forms of activity;
  4. It’s been suggested that the prosecutor called the adults involved in the incident “naughty”. He didn’t. He was referring to the teenagers involved only.
  5. The girl seems to have been removed from the community to another location.

So violent gang rape it wasn’t, apparently, but no-one denies that something pretty awful went on – teenage and adult s-x with a 10-year-old, who apparently has foetal alcohol syndrome. What can the judge have been thinking?

Quite possibly she is working off the assumption that adult-child s-xual contact is so general in this community and in others that paradoxically, jail wouldn’t have the deterrent effect people are talking about.

Let’s be clear about this – one of the key findings of the Little Children Are Sacred report was the adult-child s-xual contact is widespread among a number of Aboriginal communities.

Clearly as a country we have no alternative but to impose a universal ban on s-x below an agreed upon legal age of consent – though in the West that varies from 14 (and below) in Scandinavia to 18 or even 21(!) in some US states – but the plain fact is that if it were unstintingly applied in some communities, very large numbers of boys and men would need to be locked up, without any indication that it would strengthen the idea that such behaviour is illegal and regarded as wrong.

Quite possibly Justice Bradley made a terrible terrible mistake.

But quite possibly she didn’t. But hey, let’s have the appeal and jail ’em. What better way to show Aborigines how whites run fair and equal justice systems than by state premiers responding to media storms?