Monday, January 25, 2010

Child protection law misdirected

There should be some irony in seeing that the day it is announced that parents will be able to check neighbours, friends or partners to see if they have convictions for being a pedophile, that the two parents of the Edlington sadists have name suppression.

The children who are the victims of their children are reportedly frightened that the sadists, who have permanent name suppression and will get new identities, (thanks to the mugs who paid for them and their parents to be fed, clothed and housed), will kill them once released. The other disturbing element is that the two victims no longer wish to associate with each other, in part because the sadists forced them to perform sexual acts on each other.

Allowing parents to ask the Police to check whether an individual has a "child sex offence", seems reasonable to most parents. However, there are a whole range of serious flaws in the idea.

1. The definition of "child sex offence" isn't clear, but it is plausible that it will catch those guilty of relatively minor offences - the classic teenage "oops she was 15, I thought she was 16" situation, where there is consent and the "offender" is only a few years older. However, that person will be deemed to be a "child sex offender" as much as someone who brutally abducts and rapes small children. There is no equivalency between them, but it will greatly hinder the rehabilitation and reintegration into society of those who have essentially committed victimless crimes. Surely if it is to happen, shouldn't there be a definition that weeds out the latter cases?

2. The hysteria about child sexual offences alone has left out the obvious. Rapists and anyone who commits violent offences are completely ignored. What mother would rather know if the man they are going out with is a rapist - of women - or has served time for bashing a previous woman? Why is this not important, or is it part of the modern day hysteria that treats only those who commit sexual offences against children as dangerous. Those who beat children or rape adults are somehow not seen as a risk.

3. If there are child sex offenders in public today that pose such a risk, should they even be out? Surely sentencing should reflect danger to the public and the top priority has to be protection. In an environment when the state is seeking to cut time in prison across the board to save money, surely a better effort would be to ensure sentences of those likely to re offend are sufficiently preventive?

4. Should there not be a bigger debate about what to do with information about convicted criminals? Should everyone have the right to know who has done time for violent, sexual and property offences? Wouldn't you like to check your real estate agent for fraud, your daughter's new boyfriend for violent offences? Or does that put a serious barrier in the way of rehabilitation?

5. Doesn't allowing such checks simply produce a false sense of security? The two boys tortured in Edlington would not have been protected because their assailants were minors too. A significant proportion of child abuse happens in feral homes, committed by people who are never convicted or even charged. Does making such a check become an easy substitute for being cautious, not leaving your children with people you don't know? Indeed shouldn't the best step be to have enough communication between children and parents that when the kids don't like someone, because of what they say or do with them, that parents listen?

This sort of proposal is driven by politicians seeking to get good publicity months out from a general election, a desire to "do something" rather than consider the whole criminal justice framework around protecting children and media hyped hysteria about high profile cases.

A better response is the following:

1. Preventive detention to be used more often for multiple repeat offenders and those who are considered to present, on balance, a real danger to the community. This applies also to minors who are offenders.

2. Applying a sentence of custody denial for anyone convicted of serious violent or sexual offences (including those against children). Intergenerational abuse and criminality is a key problem, and it is about time that parents who abuse are no longer permitted to live in the same home as other children. Why are abusers allowed to breed and raise children, but not allowed to work in schools? Is it less of a concern to make your own victims?

3. Promote self defence techniques for children and the means for them to safely advise trustworthy adults (i.e. at school) if they are frightened or abused.

4. Criminal negligence charges for Police or child protection authorities who ignore multiple reports of offences against children. The Edlington case is a palpable example of this.

5. Permanently deny welfare including housing to all convicted serious violent and sexual offenders. Taxpayers should, at least, not be forced to pay to sustain those who have harmed them. Let them be at the mercy of charities who will spring up to help. Let's not allow them to populate already tragically depressed housing estates and live their lives in leisure in front of TV.

6. Consider how and whether the general public should have access to criminal records of other citizens. Sexual offences are one thing, but so are violent and property offences. Would this make people safer or would it simply result in all criminals being incapable of living lives outside prison without criminality? Would it be a deterrent or would it allow like minded individuals to find each other and collaborate?

It's important to bear in mind that neither the Edlington case, nor the Jamie Bulger case, nor the Huntley case would ever have been prevented by the measures now proposed. Edlington COULD have been prevented by the Police and Child Protection Services, as the offenders had committed multiple violent and property offences over the years.

However governments rarely point the blame at themselves, make themselves accountable personally and financially, and seek radical changes to try to prevent similar occurrences.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You bring up some very interesting points. But its not as difficult as you may think to gain a better hold on this issue for the protection of your citizens. You need to look at other countries and gather data of what works, doesnt work, has been tried and what has failed. There are as many different sex crimes as their are criminals. The very first avenue legislature should tackle is what constitutes a violent sexual crime. The next are Predatory sexual crimes against children. You know the crimes you read in the newspaper that make your heart stop. These guys need to be locked up and stay locked up for a very long time, trust me its alot cheaper than revolving them thru victims and your judicial. No one saves money by letting these guys out! To cast one net over many criminals and spend the same amount of money on each is pointless. Some crimes have a re-offend rate of zero, others have a 100% re-offend rate. You know who they are and what has to be done. If you have the opportunity to look at this heinous aspect of society, look at it with eyes wide open. There are just some poor excuse for human beings that should not have the opportunity to interact with others. Forget traditional therapy, its a racket and the only people who get anything out of it are the State funded therapist. Serious drugs are needed for those you do allow back out and those drugs have proven to control certain complusions, but you gotta pay for the drugs if you dont wanna pay for the prison. Those with less serious crimes, should have mandatory oversight, their computers routinely examined and restrictions against contact with children and for God's sake hire people who will actually do the job, not a bunch of state workers who spend their days counting their vacation time. Demand accountability from those who seek to use our women and children for food, but demand it also from those responsibile for oversight of these men.