The modern fetish for diversity and multiculturalism plunged into asinine territory on Tuesday when Mrs Justice Pauffley, a High Court judge, said police and social services should make allowances when investigating new migrants because of the ‘different cultural context’.
Justice Pauffley, ruling on a case in which an Indian man was alleged to have beaten his wife and seven-year-old son, said that within many new immigrant communities children were slapped for misbehaviour in a way which ‘at first excites the interest of child protection professionals’ (in fact, the man in question had been resident in the UK for a decade). Her view was that ‘proper allowance must be made for what is almost certainly a different cultural context’.
The boy, who turns eight this month, complained that his father had physically assaulted him by hitting him on the back and leg with a belt. The father denied using a belt to strike the child but admitted he would slap or tap him to ‘keep him disciplined’.
The Children’s Act of 2004 made it illegal for parents in England and Wales to chastise children if blows led to bruising, swelling, cuts, grazes or scratches. Justice Pauffley has now raised the spectre of granting exemptions in respect of certain individuals and communities.
Cornerstone principles of our legal system stipulate that every citizen is subject to the law (including law makers themselves) and that ignorance of the law is no defence. It is therefore surely imperative that the police and the judiciary enforce the law without fear or favour, affection or ill will regardless of multicultural sensitivities?
The law is designed to protect the weak and vulnerable. Children are especially vulnerable to abuse by their parents or guardians, so custodians of the law must be especially vigilant in protecting them. A child’s right to the protection of the law trumps the right of people to follow the dictates of their imported culture. A society that is not integrated with a common belief system and a set of common values glued together by the rule of the law is liable to disintegrate. We need to start celebrating integration more.
Cultural diversity may be important, but when its well-meaning tenets become misguided and give rise to police officers, judges and social workers neglecting their primary responsibilities owing to the fear of being accused of racism, our society has one foot on the proverbial slippery slope.