Australian judge cites parent’s religioisity as mitigation

This is pretty weird if it’s true. A judge in Australia has cited the religiosity of a defendant’s father as a mitigating circumstance warranting a lighter sentence for people smuggling.

A court in Perth convicted Iraqi-Iranian citizen Hadi Ahmadi of smuggling 562 refugees into Australia and sentenced him to 7.5 years. With parole and reduction for time already served, he could be out of jail by June 2012.

The judge, Judge Stavrianou, sentenced him to five years’ jail for each of two counts of people smuggling, but reduced the total the sentence to 7.5 years citing several mitigating factors.

One of these, according to media reports, was the consideration that he came from a “well-respected family in Iraq where his deceased father was a senior religious figure”.

Well, well, well. The superstitions of a criminal’s father is a strange way to gauge the length of a jail sentence.

Do all cult members get such leniency, or only the most fervent, fanatical and “devout”? If I commit a crime but can show that my father really, truly, passionately believed he was the creation of a flying omniscient teapot, will the judge look kindly on me?

What if I’m an atheist and believe in no such voodoo? In that case I guess I’d be rooted, as the Aussies might say.

Unless of course the courts establish the “inadmissible corollary” of belief as a mitigating factor, ie that non-belief is also. After all, there’s nothing in someone’s non-belief urging him to smite infidels or apostates or whatever, so why not give atheists a break too?

It all harks back to the controversy in Britain earlier this year over the comments Cherie Booth QC (Tony Blair’s wife) made to a man as she was sentencing him for assault. She said she was suspending his custodial sentence because he was a “religious person” (Muslim) and knew what he did was wrong.

The Office of Judicial Supervision dismissed a complaint of misconduct against Booth from the National Secular Society, but many were left with the feeling that something was deeply amiss.

As blogged by The Heresiarch, Booth’s statements, and those reportedly made by the judge in Perth on Friday, suggest:

that a religious person is being held to a different standard than a non-religious one. That his religion was the reason he ought to have known better. But you don’t need religion to tell you that it’s wrong to punch someone in the face.

Whether or not non-believers are discriminated against, it would surely be better if judges kept religion out of it altogether.

(Photo courtesy of Ian Britton via Freefoto)

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