Abusing a corpse

Michael Hutsell, 45, has been arrested in Paris, a town in Kentucky in the US, and charged with tampering with physical evidence and abuse of the corpse of Tina Johnson. She was reported missing on 3 December 2016.

As often the case, the police became interested by a stench, coming from a house in Paris. It turned out to be the body of the missing woman.

But what does corpse abuse mean?

Across the US, abuse of corpse is a crime, largely defined as being anything that would offend ‘normal’ family and community sensibilities. In Kentucky, for example, the law provides that  a person is guilty of abuse of a corpse when “he intentionally treats a corpse in a way that would outrage ordinary family sensibilities.” This can range from corpse mutilation or rape, to corpse storage or mere exploitation.

In England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, there is no such crime as corpse abuse, which is as much to do with the legal status of a dead body as anything else. A dead body isn’t property, neither is it human.

Which means that in the UK no one can be charged with the rape of a dead body (consent is not an issue); but there is a law which criminalises sexual penetration of a corpse.

Mind you, that won’t stop you being prosecuted in the UK if you are found to be in possession of an extreme pornographic image involving a sexual interference with a corpse. Rory Alan Owen, 53, now faces three charges of making an indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph of a child. But he is also alleged to have been in possession of an extreme pornographic image portraying an act which involved sexual interference with a corpse, which was grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character.

Picture source: Amadalvarez via Wikimedia