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Leave Roman Polanski to the justice and mercy of God

The victim of his crime, Samantha Geimer, wants the case dropped. To bang him up would be cruel and vengeful

By on Friday, 16 July 2010

Roman Polanski is free to stay in his chalet (above) in Gstaad, Switzerland, after Swiss authorities refused to extradite him to the United States (AP Photo/Keystone/Dominic Favre)

Roman Polanski is free to stay in his chalet (above) in Gstaad, Switzerland, after Swiss authorities refused to extradite him to the United States (AP Photo/Keystone/Dominic Favre)

American prosecutors have said they will continue to pursue Roman Polanski now that the Swiss authorities have refused to extradite him to the United States. Good luck to them. My hunch is that Polanski will never again risk visiting a country that has extradition treaties with the United States. That means we will not get to see him at next year’s Bafta awards, but I dare say most of us will find ways of living with that.

How did we get here? Roman Polanski performed wicked sexual acts with a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles 33 years ago, and was indicted on charges of rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, a lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor. Polanski pleaded not guilty to all charges, but later, as a result of a plea bargain, pleaded guilty to one charge of statutory rape.

Polanski clearly deserved to be punished. But he wasn’t: he skipped bail and fled the United States. If you like, he got away with it. Does his victim, Samantha Geimer, now lie awake at night wondering when the Polish dwarf is going to come crashing through her bedroom window? No. This week she welcomed the Swiss decision. “I hope that the District Attorney will now close the case and get it over once and for all,” she said.

Mrs Geimer has three children and you can see that she might not feel at all happy at the prospect of more slavering publicity. For some time now, at any rate, she has made it clear that she wants the case to be dropped. This was an important consideration with the Swiss authorities. No doubt Polanski’s lawyers – and Polanski’s money – have influenced Mrs Geimer’s approach to the case, but isn’t that what lawyers and money are for?

In the end, though, what really matters here is the argument from compassion. At this distance in time – a third of a century – mercy should be extended to Polanski, who is obviously no longer a threat to anyone, except perhaps through his films. To bang him up now would be cruel and vengeful. It is time to leave Polanski to his Maker, from whom he can expect perfect justice and perfect mercy.

But aren’t we on the slippery slope here? Where might this sort of clemency end? What about Nazi fugitives from justice? Would it be right to show mercy to them also, to leave even them to their Maker? Yes. It serves nobody’s interest to have a 90-year-old in the dock haggling with a 90-year-old witness about events that occurred 70 years ago.

And paedophile priests? In the case of crimes committed decades ago they, too, should be left to their Maker. But here one must acknowledge a double standard. If Roman Polanski had been Fr Polanski and had been wanted for having performed lewd acts with a minor 33 years ago, he would have had many fewer defenders than Roman Polanski, and my bet is that he would have been extradited.

But “Fr Polanski” deserves just as much mercy as Roman Polanski, at least from the secular. In the end the case for mercy applies to all.

  • Liz Ireland

    Sorry, I completely disagree with you. Both “Fr Polanski” and Roman Polanski should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

  • Danzibar

    Hear, hear, Liz. The man is a rapist and should be imprisoned. Likewise, anyone found guilty of paedophilia or Nazi war crimes should go to jail, no matter what their age is or how long it has been since the crime was committed. Stuart, what a strange take on justice you have.

  • Boheme7

    “No doubt Polanski’s lawyers – and Polanski’s money – have influenced Mrs Geimer’s approach to the case, but isn’t that what lawyers and money are for?” What kind of statement is that for God's sake?!!
    Justice must be seen to be done. An example must be made so as to deter the rich & powerful from performing such crimes. People become disillusioned when they see a privileged few getting away with heinous crimes. Is there not an international law against rapists & paedophiles? The French & the Swiss have proven themselves to be shameful examples of upholders of standards & decency.
    America is becoming more & more the only defendant of righteousness.

    Is this article a plea for paedophile Catholic priests (who only became priests to be near children) not to be punished?

    The Western world is slowly going mad and articles like this only help the collapse of what is, was or still could be a great civilisation.

  • Boheme7

    The decision to release Polanski marks the end of Western civilisation and the dawn of a new dark age – the lights will rise up & shine & slay the unjust – Mad Max here we come!!! But seriously take a look at this:

  • marc puckett

    90 year old men are, sometimes, as capable of committing crimes as they were when they were 50? I have no idea re Mr Polansky. But if you are certain that he cannot impose himself again on those little better than children, then, I agree that at this point he should be left to the divine judgment.

  • Sir Percy

    I agree with the article. Banging up old men, or children for that matter, is rather barbaric. Paedophilia is indeed disgusting and rightly criminal, but there is a bizarre, media-fed witch-hunt around paedophilia today. I can't help but think that in a culture where nearly all other moral norms, in particular sexual moral norms, have vanished, the masses need something to make them feel morally righteous. Paedophilia appears to fill this function, much as burning witches did in the 12th century.

  • Anne

    They go back 50 years to get a Catholic Priest but think it is not necessary to go back 30 years for Polanski because it happened so long ago! Really? I haven't noticed anybody going back 50 years to get Anglican Vicars or Pentecostal Pastors either. Why not?

  • Anne

    Read THE GREAT UNFROCKED (a thousand years of church scandals) by Matthew Parris. It will also make you laugh.