Sunday, June 18, 2006

John Reid is missing the point

We all know the Home Secretary and Downing Street are in a total panic over policy these days. The result of which has been knee-jerk headline grabbing ideas which fall apart when examined closely. We had the "all foreign prinsoners will be deported" policy that changed a few hours later; then we had the infamous "stop moaning, take action" idea last week. Today it seems is no exception, and in true Sunday style a policy has been grabbed and has - successfully from what I can tell - dominated the headlines.

The idea? Megan's (Sarah's) Law. For those that don't know, this is a law that exists in America that allows the public access to the sex offender register. Basically you can check if that dodgy bloke who lives at the end of your street is a member of the Gary Glitter fan club. This is an idea which the Government has actually already rejected (quite stringly), but it's Sunday, and they want to seem tough, not soft, on crime.

Many people talk about this law as a panacea because it gives parents information to protect their families and they feel empowered. Yes, that is certainly true, but we shouldn't forget that a few years ago a paediatrician was targeted by a mob who thought paediatrician meant something else. There is a concern that the public may not actually be able to handle the information in a sane way.

Don't get me wrong though, I'm a father and if I lived next door to a serious sex offender I think I probably would want to know about it, but shouldn't we be asking why the hell serious sex offenders are living next door to people instead of being in prison?

The truth is, setting up a public register misses the point entirely. We shouldn't need to search to find out where serious sexual criminals live, we should just know that wherever they are the address begins with "HM Prison". Let's not waste billions on another IT project. Let's build more prisons and start sentencing people properly.


Croydonian said...
18 Jun 2006 23:18:00  

Possibly relevant dept: Many many years ago when I was Chelmsfordian (ish..) I lived in a small commuter belt village where one of the locals was known to be a little too interested in underage boys. This was widely known, and we as children were warned off any contact with him, although at the time he had never done been convicted of any offence. Eventually he was, and after his sentence had been served he returned to the village. He got beaten up once, then it was allowed to lie, as it were.

I fear that drawing lines as to what constitutes serious sex offences is not easily done, and giving my small 'l' liberal hat another one of its rare airings, I am uncomfortable with the idea that anyone who commits a sexual offence (of whatever magnitude) is incapable of rehabilitation. I am also a father, although my primary school age children live with their mother in another country.

dizzy said...
19 Jun 2006 06:21:00  

it's funny you should metnion distinction between offences. That is the problem in the US currently in that a 17 year old that has sex with his 16 year old girlfriend is on the register and searchable online.

Anonymous said...
19 Jun 2006 12:11:00  

And how about people reading this register, then using blackmail.

dizzy said...
19 Jun 2006 12:17:00  

would that be worthwhile? If the register is public anyway where is the blackmail advantage?

Ellee Seymour said...
19 Jun 2006 12:55:00  

So many people would not be on the register who should be. I live near Soham, my sons go to school there, and it was their school caretaker who murdered two innocent schoolgirls. He was known and trusted by the community.

Police need to share information more, that was a problem with the Soham case. I don''t know why there is a problem with having up to date data.

Where are these sex offenders going after their sentence has been completed? Tagging has not proved effective. Nobody wants them living next door. is a participant in the Amazon Europe S.à.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to