Monday, June 19, 2006

Is This The Sensible Way To Deal With Paedophiles

First off, I am a father of two children, and the thought of anything happening to them brings me out in a cold sweat and gives me sleepless nights. The idea of any pervert getting their hands on them frightened me, and if anyone did do anything, I would probably commit some offences of my own!

For some time, a tabloid newspaper , I suspect in search of sensationalist headlines, has been campaigning for something it calls 'Sarah's Law' after the assault and death of Sarah Payne six years ago and modeled on 'Megan's Law' in America.

Now I don't know how it works in the US, but from what the paper has said should happen would, I believe, lead to vigilantism and the driving of these people under-ground. Sure, those charged with protecting society should be fully aware of these people and where they are and what they are doing, but the rest of us? Do I really want to know that someone round the corner has a conviction for child abuse? If I did know, how would that effect the way I live, and how I parent my children? Would I want to do something about it? I honestly don't have an answer, but what I do know is that we shouldn't, at the whim of newspaper sales, destroy a cornerstone of British justice quickly and without sensible thought.

Moreover, the police are not happy with the way the debate in this country is going. Chief Constable Terry Grange told BBC News he was extremely concerned the Home Office had "surrendered" power over [child abuse] policy to the News of the World [newspaper].

When viewed emotionally, Sarah's (Megan's) Law would seem to be the answer, but intellectually, I feel it would be taking the wrong road. Child abuse and murder is an horrendous crime, and needs to be dealt with carefully, and with wisdom, not headlines.

Six years ago, the tabloid press, by 'outing' paedophiles, caused some of the worst scenes of vigilantism this country has seen in a centuary, and brought about the deaths of two people who had been mistakenly identified.

Finally, 90% of child abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows, and is often a relative!


jane said...

I think the important thing is the 10% that occurs by strangers, is most likely the kids that are kidnapped and murdered. With Megan's law, it's the most severe of pedophiles that are listed. And even then, it varies by degrees. Some don't have their pictures or their addresses, just a name.
In California, among those listed are also violent sexual offenders, ie...rapists of adults. I do want to know if a rapist moves in our area so that I can be careful.
Oddly enough, I've heard of few cases of vigilantism over this list. There have been protests outside of homes that house multiple pedophiles, but even then, they weren't hurt & the one who was targeted was eventually imprisoned again for a violation.
Now, they're learning towards using those location detectors that are attached to the ankles of offenders.
I think since you cannot keep them locked up forever, nor can you cure them from interacting in society, notifying the public is a sensible way of dealing with the issue.
Just my thoughts.

Val Badger said...

I think that once parents found out where these people live, and could see the horrific things they'd done to their/other kids, the temptation would be just to go round and kill them. Sara Payne (Sarah's mother) suggested that maybe tougher sentencing was more of an answer. I think perhaps more investment in psychiatric treatment, and mental health in general, would also help - these people are sick!

Jay said...

This is a tough one. One the one hand, there is no treatment for sex offenders...and they do tend to keep doing it whenever they get the slightest opportunity. On the other, it's rather extreme to pin that lifetime lable on some 18 year old kid because he was caught making whoopie with his under-aged girlfriend.

There's an answer somewhere in between. Things like Megan's Law are reactionary responses that may make us feel better but hardly ever do anything to address the problem.

Eddie said...

Not only do I agree with everything you have written I would like to mention the case of the Paediatrician who was driven from her home by an ignorant mob.Look here for the story:
Megan's law seems to work well in America, I can't put my finger on the essential differences between U.S. citizens and Brits, but I know the outcome here would be vastly different.