JULIE RAMAGE -BETRAYED BY BOURGEOIS JUSTICE
JAMES RAMAGE - SAVED BY PATRIARCHY
AS PUBLISHED IN THE MELBOURNE HERALD SUN
29 OCTOBER 2004
On 12 October I sat only metres from James Ramage and watched as
his barrister Phil Dunn cross-examined the twin sister of the woman
Ramage strangled and dumped in a shallow grave. It's the second
time I've experienced the trial of a man who's argued he was provoked
into killing the woman he loved. In 1989 I watched in disbelief
as Judge George Hampel granted a defence of provocation to Peter
Keogh, the violent man who stabbed my 25-year-old sister to death.
The humiliation of seeing Keogh found guilty only of manslaughter
and receiving less than 4 years gaol will live with me forever
Few people know much about the legal defence of provocation. It's
not something lawyers share with the public. Provocation is granted
to a killer when a judge believes it's not unreasonable to think
an ordinary man in the circumstances might have lost control and
acted violently. It's a barbaric law that allows men who kill the
women they claim to love to escape a murder conviction.
No one knows what happened before Ramage grabbed his wife by the
throat in the family home in Balwyn in July 2003, a month after
they'd separated. She probably did say 'you just don't get, do you?
I am not coming back.' The killer told police she also said 'sex
with you would repulse me.' It was no secret to the family or James
Ramage that his sexual demands did repulse her. But would she have
repeated those words in the house that day to a man who scared her?
And so what if she did? We've all said worse without expecting to
be killed. On 26 August 1987 Peter Keogh told police it was the
words, 'fuck off' or 'piss off'', that caused him to lose control
and stab my sister multiple times when he trapped her in her car
outside the kindergarten where she worked. The fact that dead women
can't speak is a godsend for these killers.
If you'd seen Phil Dunn argue the provocation defence you'd understand
why Julie Ramage's sister, Jane, is incensed. Watching your dead
sister blamed for her 'murder' is too much for any decent person
to stomach. When I suggested to Dunn in the foyer that this kind
of examination belonged in Afghanistan he correctly replied 'only
doing my job.'
Sadly, 'doing my job' means assassinating the character of a 'murdered'
woman. For Dunn it meant stepping into Julie Ramage's private life
and asking how many times she had sex with her new boyfriend and
whether she loved him and was treating the new relationship as potentially
serious or long term. It even meant asking the jury to consider
whether tampons in the dead woman's handbag indicated she might
have been pre menstrual and therefore irrational when she spoke
to her husband before he killed her. Hard to believe, isn't it?
Julie Ramage was a frightened woman who tried to hide her private
life from the husband she no longer loved, so as to not hurt him
or make him angry. Yet when did she hide her life the defence portrayed
her as a liar and a schemer. Then when she told her husband privately
she wasn't coming back, what happened? He killed her.
It's an obscenity to argue that men like Keogh and Ramage and the
young man who shot dead his ex girlfriend on the Monash Freeway
are the victims of a woman's provocation. It's not love but power
and honour - for these are really ''honour killings'' - that drives
the gun, the knife and the fists. If Julie Ramage's behaviour was
of the kind that might have caused an ordinary man to lose control
and strangle her, no woman is safe.
As long as we offer juries the chance to blame a woman for her
murder, as this jury has effectively done in handing down a manslaughter
verdict, we're a party to the violence. I'm sick of writing about
men, who, protected by the law of provocation, turn dead women into
provocateurs in the name of 'doing their job.' It's time we changed
the law, affirmed a woman's right to leave a relationship and told
these men the days of blaming women for the violence of men are