Consider this scenario
The family of a victim of sexual abuse approaches the abuser and their family. The family of the abused has not yet reported the said abuse to the police; instead they initially confront the abused and their family. The situation becomes complicated and lawyers are brought in. Lawyers for both sides settle on an agreement involving some “compensation.” In return the abuser agrees to plead guilty to a somewhat lesser offence without recording a conviction.
The lawyer of the abuser is under no doubt that her client is a dangerous pedophile. She had a choice. She could have refused to take the case. In the end, whether she was the lawyer who accepted the brief, or a lawyer who turned the case down, she is unable to remove thoughts from her head. She is convinced that the abuser is a dangerous person and that he may continue on his misadventure and sexually abuse others. She is bound by client confidentiality; we understand that.
My question relates to the Halachic imperative. Is a lawyer/person in such a case permitted to remain silent? Is there not a real problem of contravening a Torah command:
לא תעמוד על דם רעך
Unfortunately, the abuser commits further crimes. Is the lawyer somehow responsible? If they are not directly responsible, are they indirectly culpable? Later victims, upon learning that a lawyer knew about the abuse and stayed silent, decide to summons the lawyer to a בית דין. They seek at least financial compensation for the years of medical treatment and the lost opportunity that a victim must carry all their life.
- Is the lawyer permitted to stay silent from a Jewish point of view?
- If the lawyer isn’t culpable from a Western legal point of view, how should the family of the lawyer respond to their vilification by elements of the community who are disgusted that their mother didn’t pass on her very real fears to the authorities?