Monday, 2 August 2010

Sarah's Law Is A Backward Step For Society.

Jonathan Calder has written a lovely little observation on Sarah's Law this morning. I agree wholeheartedly when he says the idea that every contact between adult and child needs to be licensed or policed by the state seems to me a totalitarian fantasy.

I adore my seven-year-old daughter, I would obviously hate for her to come to harm. But to expect to monitor every movement she makes and every person she meets is clearly nothing short of ludicrous, and doesn't actually do her any favours. She's growing up and learning, and there's no lesson learned more powerfully than by direct experience. I'm gutted that kids playing out is no longer the norm. It was only 22 years ago I was her age, and had a range of a couple of streets to roam with my friends after school, and went to the corner shop for sweets on my own, as they were all within sight of my home. Nowadays if you let your seven-year-old have that much free rein you'll be getting a visit from Social Services before long for having them 'inappropriately supervised'.

Childhood in the new millennium is all about sitting indoors and getting obese, scared to set foot out of the house because the world is full of paedophiles who lurk round every corner like slavering wolves. GET A GRIP, BREEDERS. The world is no more dangerous in that sense than it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. You're doing your offspring far more harm filling their heads with patriarchal sex-obsessed brainwashing from cartoons and their tummies with junk food than you would letting them have some fresh air, exercise, sound instruction from you and a bit of responsibility for themselves!

While I'm trying to get certain things through the heads of hysterical parents here -'Innocent' does not mean 'pure and holy', it means' blank canvas'. Human beings are not born as special angels who can do no harm, to then grow into worthless hooded figures of hate at around age 15. Shocker, I know! Your precious little princes and princesses are just very young people with a lot to learn, and your job as parents is to filter down as much as possible in the way of examples of reasonable behaviour and how to live a good life as you can while they're in your care, so that when they leave it as young adults, the world will be a better place for having them in it. The world is not going to be a better place for your children, and your childrens' children, if we're all raising this generation to think that everyone who isn't government approved is a rapist-in-waiting. By the time a child is in junior school, you can explain to them perfectly straightforwardly in an age-appropriate manner what sex is, why adults do it, and how puberty comes about and why it's not a good idea for them to be involved in sex before their bodies and minds are ready. If your experience as a parent is anything like mine, you'll need to as images of sex are everywhere, and your kids will be drawing their own conclusions if you don't give them an explanation. Information is power. Limiting the information your kids have is leaving them powerless.

I am so sick to death of the hysteria. Serial rapists? Not as bad as paedophiles. People who maim, torture, commit arson, murder, armed robbery, abuse of the elderly? Not as bad as paedophiles. Let's decide that every other criminal, regardless of their propensity for reoffending, is considered to have paid their debt to society once they get out of prison, and left anonymous to give them a chance to make a good life for themselves. Not anyone who has touched a child though. They're different. Because children aren't resilient, they can't cope with the wind blowing on them. They're to be kept immune from bad things happening to them, unlike grown men and women.

Guess what else? Sarah's Law won't even guarantee your child doesn't ever meet a child abuser. All it will do is make you aware of all the poor bastards in your neighbourhood who ever got convicted. The ones who haven't ever been caught and convicted are safe from your fearful, hateful attitude. They might even be people you've known and trusted for years. They might even be living in your house. After all, in 2007, one or both parents were responsible for 69.9 percent of child abuse or neglect fatalities [source].

So, Sarah's Law is warped from my point of view, because it feeds into this growing culture where children are taught to mistrust and fear everyone they don't know well. This sad, sick culture where men are afraid to make eye contact and smile at children. The country I live in is one where everyone is considered a guiding light and a precious angel until they go through puberty, at which point they become second class citizens.

What is even more warped though, is the idea that party colleagues of mine are part of a government whose Home Office will put out an official supporting statement when they roll out Sarah's Law, which is repeated on the BBC evening news and even in the broadsheet press, saying "more than 60 children were protected from abuse during the pilot scheme which started in four areas of the UK in September 2008". I'm sorry, what kind of farcical NONSENSE is that? Can you name these 60 children that would have surely have been abused had there not been a register of previous child abuse offenders available for parents to view? I don't think you can. I think that's a fucked up thing to say, in that case.


Anonymous said...

Totally agree. I get so sick of telling these moronic parents that their kids are far more at risk from them, their wider family & family friends than any imagined stranger paedophile.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely true....but there does need to be something (else) done about the fact you get inadequate sentences for doing lasting damage to children (and adults) and are seemingly free to roam around and "bump into" your victims after release.

Being hurt like this can be a life sentence. We don't need to live in fear for the rest of our lives that our abuser may be in the supermarket or even banging at our doors.

The solution? I have no idea really....I hope someone has the brains to think of something effective, humane and I guess cost-effective!

Steph Ashley said...

Sarah's Law is really not the answer to anything. If further action on paedophiles in the community really is needed (and I have to question that because it would appear to be just a reaction to particularly public opinion..)?

I would prefer (not like) to see a system where if people were concerned about the behaviour and relationships of someone of their acquaintance, they can go and inform the police about that, and the police can take any supervisionary action needed if that person is on the register.. without telling the querent. And then tied into that and following the comment above, a function whereby if a victim encounters their former abuser, they can inform the authorities and that offender can be restricted from movements in the vicinity of the victim's home.

Dizzy said...

I don't normally fuck around with blogs, but as a fellow Lib Dem, I thought I'd have to set you right on a few points, and make a little request that before you associate the party name with reactionary, uninformed opinion, you do at least a modicum of research.

Epic fail: because right of access to know about offenders in your community can't tell you about the sex offenders yet to be caught and convicted, then we shouldn't have any kind of database of offenders? While I hope I don't need to go any further to point out the fundamental flaw here, I do hope that by pointing you to the actual research findings, you might have your other flawed points addressed.

It's fairly obvious that you haven't done the appropriate amount of research on the child sex offender disclosure scheme - which although based on Megan's Law, is only based on it in the loosest of terms. So I thought I'd help you out and point you to some required reading, so you can find out exactly where the figures you're complaining about came from.

- Inquiries made under the scheme resulted in the disclosure of 21 persons convicted of sexual offences against children, and a further 11 disclosures outside the remit of the pilot scheme made in the name of public safety. There were also 43 referrals to other services concerning child safety as a result of disclosures. So the answer is yes, they probably can name those children.

- The applications with the greatest frequency related not to strangers living in the area, but to ex partners' new partners, neighbours, family members or friends of the family. That's exactly the groups you express concerns about - it's not about 'stranger danger' at all.

- You're not expected to monitor everyone your child comes into contact with. The scheme is designed so that if you do come into contact with someone you don't trust - for example, someone with access to your children who's been to prison - then you have the right to be told if that person has form for crimes that could harm your child.

Knowledge about offenders is available to employers who want to do a CRB check for those who work with children and vulnerable groups. This scheme extends the right to know of previous convictions in the workplace to those who live around you and might have similar access to your children.

I'd want to know - while I'm not overprotective of my children, I do like to know what's going on with the adults who, at some point, may be entrusted with their care for whatever reason. This goes for friends, family, schools, playgroup, Cubs and Brownies.

Under this scheme, you can't simply ask for details of sexual offenders in your area - you have to be aware of someone who has access to your children. It's a carefully designed scheme that balances the right to know with the right of the offender to be rehabilitated. In most cases, the terms of an offender's parole might require them to stay away from children, or to inform people of their conviction; this scheme is one of many that restricts access to vulnerable groups by those who might do them harm.

It's not paranoid - it's good sense to recognise that your children are children. They're naive, they see the best intentions in everyone. No-one is trying to rob them of that, and it's wrong to assume so because you can't see a middle ground. There's lots of things I don't tell my children, and things I do - the balance is mine to have, and the risks I allow my childen to take have to be ultimately properly informed.

If those risks aren't properly informed, then I'm not doing my job as a parent, and I'm risking my child. So please, inform yourself.

RichardJ said...

Its you that needs to your research Dizzy. Take a look at this link to gauge just how useless Sarah's Law is:

I voted Liberal Democrat at the General Election because of its stance on civil liberties. I was looking forward to Nick Clegg's Freedom Bill and the measures that would adopted in terms of dismantling Labour's Police state. I am therefore absolutely horrified that the new Government, of which the Liberal Democrats are a part, has allowed Sarah's Law through. It has no place in a free society. Why should adults have their traditional freedoms curtailed just to keep the child protection nazies happy. As for Nick Clegg's freedom bill, after this, I doubt it will add up to much. Moreover, given that the Liberal Democrats have allowed this appalling legislation through, I think they have lost the right to be viewed as the party of civil liberties. I certainly won't be voting for them next time. I think I will abstain or vote Green. Very very disappointing. But well done to Steph Ashley - she has got exactly right Dizzy

Luke S said...

Its all true. People forget that young people are perfectly capable of looking after themselves. Were not going to dive into the arms of a stranger when they offer me sweets. Get a grip! This law makes it impossible for people who made a mistake but are now valid members of the community to rebuild their lives and make something of it! This is condemning those poor people to a life sentence of fear!

jameyb said...

Anything that helps to safeguard our children is more than welcome but certain aspects of this new law causes me concern.
It is a fact that most minor sex offenders do not reoffend, the shock and realisation of being caught is no doubt a big wake up call. These people should be helped to start again and put their mistake behind them. The persistant, serious offenders are a different case (around 10% of the total). To persecute the others is the worst thing one can do. If someone has not offended for 10 or 15 years they should be allowed to get on with their lives without worry of a neighbour doing a check and finding out they were in trouble many years ago and the many possible scenarios that could follow.
New sex offenders are by far the greatest threat. How does one check for these? More research needs to be done to find out what makes a person offend, are they born with this attraction in the same way we are born attracted to a male or female? Is it something beyond their control, were they were just unlucky to have drawn the short straw? Or was it abuse they suffered themselves that has made them behave this way. Whatever the reason people need to realise that it is possible one of their children could grow up to be a sex offender and that is a sobering fact.
It is time to change our outlook, we are not going down the right route here, we do not want a witch hunt. We must realise sex offenders were children once themselves. Parents and teachers need to be taught to recognise the possible signs, and there are signs there that can be recognised by a trained eye and our children should be helped before they go on to offend., thus doing away with the need for a Sarahs Law.
I have researched this subject and recently spoke to a grandfather who told me he had a minor but embarressing sex offence 34 years ago, the shock and realisation of what he did was a massive wake up call. He is now in fear his family may find out if he is checked. He is a respected member of the community having started a new life in a new area. I asked him what he would do. He said he would have 4 choices tell the family which he said he could never do. Run away or commit suicide! He said I love my family so much I would be unable to make any of those choices. He would not say what the 4th choice was but one cant help but think of the men who have killed their families rather than letting them find out something awful about their past. This is a reality we are facing. How do we stop this happening? The answer is simple: Do not reveal one off (non custodial) convictions against anyone if it is more than 15 years old! A boy of 17 who has sex with his 15 year old girlfriend is not a sex preditor nor are 90% of those quoted on the list of 60

Steph Ashley said...

Hey Dizzy, read this: