Two very different men with the same excuse
Yesterday at almost the same time two men who had done a bad thing, one very much worse than the other, used almost identical excuses.
In Sydney Paul Douglas Peters, the so-called “Collar bomb hoaxer” was sentenced to 13 years in jail for the 10 hours of sheer terror and year of tough recovery he unleashed on 18-year-old schoolgirl Madeleine Pulver in her family home last year.
In Melbourne champion jokey Damien Oliver copped an 8-month ban from racing after he admitted betting $10,000 against his own ride - a cardinal sin of the track.
Both men cried as their punishments were announced, and it emerged afterwards both men said their actions had taken place during extreme distress over the breakdown or troubled state of their marriages.
According to The Daily Telegraph report of the Peters sentencing:
Earlier in court, Peters started to cry as Judge Zahra spoke of the unravelling his life in the lead up to his crime. The court heard Peters, left “distraught” by the breakdown of his marriage and career trouble, believed “he had lost everything. He told a psychiatrist that he had to find “an ingenious way to trap myself” because he was drinking heavily and knew he needed help. “I had to catch myself out,” the court heard Peters said. “I had to lay evidence along the way to trap myself.”
From down South came this report on Oliver’s stewards hearing from News.com.au:
An emotional Oliver read from a statement in a trembling voice as he told stewards that at the time of the offence in 2010 he was going through serious personal problems and described it as the “worst period of my life”.
“I felt despondent and had lost my belief in my ability as a jockey,” Oliver said. He said he had problems with alcohol and had resorted to binge drinking at that time when his wife had left him and taken their three children with her. “It was a highly stressful time. I feared I would lose my marriage,” he said.
He received psychological treatment and had attended drug and alcohol counselling.
In Peters’ case the judge wasn’t buying it. The sentence speaks for itself, but Judge Peter Zahra said Peters’ elaborate plot was “implemented with precision.”
It’s harder to tell what, if any, impact Oliver’s marriage troubles had on the sympathies of the stewards.
His own lawyer Robert Richter QC told them the bet was “totally out of character”.
According to The Australian:
Richter ... had urged stewards to consider his standing in the sport, his contrition and co-operation and the fact he was receiving treatment at the time of the bet for the issues raised in the hearing when considering a penalty.
It’s not a new phenomenon for people to blame anxiety or addiction for their behaviour, and in many cases it’s perfectly legitimate.
But both of these cases add up to a slight on men, and women, everywhere who are going through tough times.
Their behaviour was not just reckless.
Oliver was a pillar of his industry who broke the rule that protects that industry’s legitimacy and the trust of the punters it relies on for survival.
And as for Peters - what he did to the Pulver family was despicable.
Sympathy for their relationship dramas is running at a flatline low.
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