From Megan to Sarah

A Home Office Minister is flying to America to examine Megan’s law with a view to implementing a similar law in the United Kingdom. The debate about such a law here began when the parents of Sarah Payne, who was brutally murdered by a convicted sex offender, launched a campaign for a British equivalent. This campaign was embraced by the News of the World whose publication of information on paedophiles led to vigilante attacks. Six years ago the idea was rejected by the Home Office as “unenforceable and might even put children and the public at greater risk.” but know they believe they can learn from the years of American experience. Others accuse them of bowing to tabloid pressure.
Megan’s Law is not a single statute with each state having different approaches to its implementation. Research in Florida has shown positive and negative effects on sex offenders. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s 2001 review of the available research lead them to conclude that “there is very little evidence to substantiate claims that community notification enhances child safety.“. Five murders have been directly linked to the use of the publicly available information. It also depresses house prices (not that a concerned parent would care about that).

Finally, the USA has consistently lower registration rates of sex offenders than the UK and some believe a toughening of laws in the UK will increase difficulties in tracking sex offenders. It may also encourage sex offender flight within the European Union with the Republic of Ireland probably the easiest and straightforward alternative.

  • It’s a very difficult issue. On one hand I couldn’t care less of a child molester is named and shamed and gets a kicking some dark night. Surely parents do have a right to know what threats exist in their neighbourhood? But perhaps then the law should be broadened to cover other types of offenders such as drug dealers etc which are surely also a threat!

    On the other hand if a guy serves his time is that it? Can you ever wipe the slate clean? Can sex offenders be reformed? Should we be looking at the degree of the offence before making their details public?

  • http://tinyurl.com/m8rmz
    http://tinyurl.com/nqtns

    I wish there was an easy answer to this. I think of the two litlte Soham kids (the Beckhams earn every penny in as much as they give little kids simple dreams).
    Some of the cases cited above show prison does not work. Pedophiles do not reform or even admit they do wrong. Witness Nambla etc.
    Maca: some of the links show prison does not work. Not with Mark Sweeney who kidnapped a kid and brought her to his sex molester flat mates, where he molested her.

    More parental involvement would be a atart. It is also important to watch anyone involved with kids. (a pity as most GAA, rugby, soccer, swimming etc coaches are the salt of the earth) Also governbments should put more money into youth but kids don’t have votes. But these crimes point to a moral heart of darkness at the core of modern society and people. Perhaps it was always there. Very depressing.

  • Taigs
    “some of the links show prison does not work”

    It’s not b&w. It may work for some. Perhaps taking cases on a case by case basis might be an option.

  • Ingram

    Hi Quote”It’s not b&w. It may work for some. Perhaps taking cases on a case by case basis might be an option.

    Not when you are dealing with Kids lives ! NO RISKS.

    When individuals are convicted of these offences then they have lost all normal rights, the balance of probibility rests with the potential victim.

    I would personally chemically castrate all convicted sex offenders, extreme yes but my kids and your kids rights are paramount.

    Take Gary Glitter, a classic example. He really does not understand what all the fuss is about. No amount of help will make him less of a threat. I would remove that threat so innocent Kids like Megan and others too numerous to mention have their rights considered way above these vile creatures.

    Martin

  • Martin
    “Not when you are dealing with Kids lives ! NO RISKS”

    I agree totally … no risk. Which is why I suggested each case could be checked individually because not every single case might be a risk. There might be a percentage of those (even a tiny percentage) who understand that they have done wrong, have done their time for their crime and want a chance at a normal life. In these cases I think where there apears to be no risk that i’d be inclined to give those people a chance at a new life (obviously there would be other security measures in place such as banning them from working with kids etc etc).
    If there is any risk then by all means name and shame.

  • The Hang them all shit gets us nowhere. Glitter is near the end of a spectrum where human life has little or no value. Read the Sweeney case. No way is that guy right in the head; he is wrongly wired. Brendan Smyth was a highly fucked up guy who was given a green light to cause mayhem in Ireland. Though the noose is an easy solution, it does not get at the underlying problem.

    Mob rule is not the solution. Building up the ocmfort zone is. Easy to say but hard to do.

  • shamo

    “I would personally chemically castrate all convicted sex offenders, extreme yes but my kids and your kids rights are paramount.” – Martin
    Understand the sentiment, but not sure it would do much good as many psyhologists believe paedophilia, like all sex crime, often has a lot more to do with power than sex. If these people are sick enough to rape and murder a child, I don’t think their libido is the problem.

    As for Megan’s law, I totally agree that it should be brought in and that some crimes are so heinous that the perversity of the offenders puts them beyond the pale of normal rehabilitative approaches to crime. They deserve little or nothing.

    Another take on this, however, is what paedophiles would do if ‘named and shamed’ in Britain and the Six Counties. When sex assaults became common in the South Belfast/Queen’s vicinity some years back, it was revealed that many sex offenders live in the Holylands/student accomodation area as they are afraid of recognition in established communities. Would they now move south of the border, and would British sex offenders equally go somewhere they can’t be traced?

  • Crataegus

    Why do people do this? Why on earth children? Power, control, what drives them? Must have had a bad past or be totally rotten. It is like people who attack the defenceless or torture someone’s pet. These people are seriously disturbed.

    With regards crime generally we don’t publicise convictions enough. If the local youth mugs a pensioner the more who know the better. Whose rights are the most important potential victims or former perpetrators?

    But of course mistakes can happen and there in lies the problem.

  • kensei

    This is nasty little law to be honest. I can’t help feel that a part of it is to excuse parents from their responsibilites – my mum practically always knew where I was, who I was going with and when I should be back when I was growing up.

    The fact of the matter is that the majority of child abuse cases are carried out by relatives or close confidents. There are a further section of people who will never get caught. What is the point of this information? Anyone that says there are no bad people in your area and you should let your guard down is a lie, and anyone thats says the opposite is an invitation to fear.

  • Ingram

    hi,
    quote” This is nasty little law to be honest. I can’t help feel that a part of it is to excuse parents from their responsibilites – my mum practically always knew where I was, who I was going with and when I should be back when I was growing up

    what about the little girl who was taken from the Bath in Sunderland ! parents cannot protect the kids 24/7 and it is the laws of society that have primary responsibility.

    To make the parents share the blame for these perverted and frankly sick people is a sad viewpoint.

    Children first, you molest children then you lose ALL RIGHTS. end of story. No ifs No buts play with kids and expect only one thing. That said make, it very very clear what that punishment is. Do the crime, them be prepared to pay for it.

    The Republics Governments over the years and the Church ( All Faiths) protected these Vile creatures indeed even had the temerity to force the victims to give evidence in tribunals etc.

    I care not if the criminal is a priest, judge, policemen or Bin Man you offend and you will be publically named and shamed for life.

    The rights of the Kids are not negotiable.

    Martin

    P.S. If you take the Kids life whilst in the frenzy then the rules change. I would work free of charge to hang them and then sleep well knowing a problem solved.

  • nmc

    Sentencing these people seems to be the major problem, as an axample look at the paedophile who re-offended recently and has been given a 6 year (max) sentence.

    What if he thinks that 6 years is little enough to make it worthwhile offending in the first place? It’s a cast iron garauntee that he’ll do it again.

    The legislation should be changed so that certain elements of society, (paedos, knife carriers etc.) should be sentenced to serious time – 15 years plus, possibly in general population. That should make them think twice.

    Failing that, hand them over to the victims parents, to do with as they see fit.

  • The fact of the matter is that the majority of child abuse cases are carried out by relatives or close confidents.

    Spyblog picked up a significant point related to this from the BBC:

    An expert in rehabilitating sex offenders says a government fact-finding trip to the US is a waste of money.

    Ray Wyre was speaking about minister Gerry Sutcliffe’s examination of a sex offender system in the US called Megan’s Law.

    The trip was not needed, he said, because the law has already been investigated by officials.

    Eighty per cent of sexual abuse is on children in families, he said.

    “They’re not going notify the community about those men because they’re not allowed to identify who the children are.

    “And it just worries me that a new home secretary comes and doesn’t appear to know what his department, his government has been doing for years and years, and why they came up with sex offender register, multi-agency public protection panels.”

  • Vigilante stuff is counter productive, especially if the stuff about the Short Strand IRA is true.
    Some guys like Mark Sweeney are seriously fucked up individuals who have to be incarcerated for life. The same with the Soham killer. Then we have Vincent McKearney. Maybe not in the same league you say but a strange man, who flouts himself on TV and is abusing his daughter at the same time.

    When politicians develop genuine proposals as part of their election programme, then there might be help. On a side note, here is a good group yzou can help: http://www.preda.org

  • kensei

    “what about the little girl who was taken from the Bath in Sunderland ! parents cannot protect the kids 24/7 and it is the laws of society that have primary responsibility.”

    In which case, how on earth is knowing there is a convicted sex offender in your area going to help?

  • Rory

    I am absolutely, resolutely opposed to the introduction of such laws that are based on knee-jerk reactions driven, not even by the honest emotional passion that howls out in the aftermath of heinous crime, but long afterward when sober reflection may be applied.

    It is government attempting to divert attention from its own failures in almost every area of life over which it claims jurisdiction, not just in policing and justice but in housing, social welfare, the care of the mentally ill and so much more, then surrendering, for short popular gain, the rule of law to the rule of lynch mob.

    A member of that branch of medical practice dedicated to the welfare of children, a paediatrician, has already fallen victim to this hysteria as have other totally innocent men mistakenly identified. Easy mistake to make, what?

    John Reid seems happy, this week at least, to play the role of Witchfinder General. There may be no end to this man’s talents. Truly the Leonardo of New Labour.

  • Alpha

    …publication of information on paedophiles led to vigilante attacks..

    Is this predicatble? Won’t such a law drive be more likely to drive paedophiles under-ground?

    There has to be another way.

  • Brian Boru

    I am a little confused about what Megan’s law is. Is this about releasing the names and addresses of all sex-offenders (including where the offender is the same age as the victim and where there was consent), or just the names of paedophiles? If the latter I have some sympathy with this but then there is pretty much an inevitability of vigilanteism in such cases. If the former than I would say that it is wrong to criminalise underage-couples.

    I have heard that in the US, underage boyfriends jailed for underage sex have been put on the sex-offender’s register and been hounded from pillar to post when their names were released. Underage couples – while acting illegally – should not be tarred with the same brush as the predatory paedophile who preys on small children.

  • Brian Boru

    A better idea would be compulsory electronic tagging of rapists and paedophiles. Publishing the offenders register would also drive paedophiles underground.

  • Ingram

    Kensei,

    quote”In which case, how on earth is knowing there is a convicted sex offender in your area going to help

    In the context of your general point about Parents? knowing a convicted sex offender lived in your street would clearly warn you of the danger of leaving a window open. Simple really.

    The Kids are the important factor here , innocence can never ever be re placed. There are far too many do gooders who look to the rights of the criminal. Commit the crime do the time preferably with your libido a thing of the past.

    Martin

  • Rory

    This bloody madness! It is as though, when Freud took the great leap into the dark, and began to question the reasons for grave illness of the psyche, had never happened.

    I worked at the coalface of child physical and sexual abuse for ten years before I burnt out and if I take one abiding memory and resolve from that time it is this – that the abused child so easily become the abused adult. The vastly overwhelming incidences of child sexual abuse take place within the child’s home by those responsible for demonstrating the joy of human love to that child.

    How is it possible, do any of you think, that any but the most damaged soul, lost in the most profound dark torture of past events could ever contemplate any other than to exercise gentle loving care to a child in their presence?

    The monster lurking in the bushes remains rare and carrying your child in a motor vehicle is many thousand times more risky.

    The hoo-ha now, once again is not even a response from a close community to some immediately past abomination – it is a response to the vile headlines of the newspapers which serve the most sleazy interests and much of whose revenue is garnered from quite debasing pornography.

    There are two conflicting questions here which ought not be conflicting – What do we do with those caught offending? and How do we stop reoffending and decrease the likeliehood of new offenders coming forth?

    The old warcry of political charalatans everywhere that ” This matters not only for ourselves, but for our children and our children’s children” actually does apply to this matter.

    If you are coming to this issue with good, serious humane concern then I would urge you to ponder deeply on these questions.

  • Crataegus

    Rory

    What drives such behaviour? Is it a deep seated loneliness or insecurity? Why children? Is it some strange desire to go back to the past? As you say abused children become abusing adults. To me it all screams insecurity, lack of self esteem and some sort of loneliness. It is a really strange and disturbing obsession.

    I do think that in many ways we are going over the top on this to the point where men are reluctant to get involved with children at all. As you say there is a much greater risk from traffic, but there is something about this crime that hits a nerve. It is probably due to a genetic predisposition to protect children.

    Just trying to get a handle on the problem.

  • Brian Boru

    Crataegus regarding what you are saying, I think it needs to be said that the vast majority of abused children do NOT become abusing adults.

  • Crataegus

    Brian

    I know and quite correct to point that out. As Rory worked in this field I am just trying to get some insight into the reason. What motivates some to take such risk and why why why? Is there a personality type? It just doesn’t make sense to me. But there again there are many things that people do that make little sense, like telling fibs so you can take the country to war.

  • kensei

    “In the context of your general point about Parents? knowing a convicted sex offender lived in your street would clearly warn you of the danger of leaving a window open. Simple really.”

    So the logic of that is that it’s ok to leave the window open if there isn’t a convicted sex offender in the area?

  • http://tinyurl.com/lqund

    The BBC raises this today.

  • Rory

    What drives such people? If only we knew. As with the rapist, perhaps a wrong attempt to engender a feeling of self-empowerment is one hypothesis. The need to control certainly seems to be a very strong factor and, as with rapists, libido does not play such a major part, which perhaps is why many professionals do not believe that physical or chemical castration is effective and indeed may even exacerbate violent rage in the offender. A brutal observation that lends weight to this train of thought is that in so many cases it is often an instrument other than the penis that is used in the defilement.

    But whatever of the causes, which we may never fully fathom, any attempt at treatment must start, as with the alcoholic or drug addict, with “first cease to practice the abuse”.

  • Rory

    The Moral Maze on Radio 4 discusses what we should do with paedophiles in 5 minutes on tonight Wednesday. It is repeated later and can always be found on BBC Radio4 website for listen again facility.

    If it’s Melanie Phillips and some other usual suspects we may have a lot more heat than light but at least we may anticipate some thoughtful input from some of the “expert witnesse”.

  • Crataegus

    Rory

    Thanks for the insight based on professional experience.

    I was wondering if there is also perhaps, for some, a thrill from the risk?

    In my limited experience of life; alcoholics and gamblers have similar characteristics. It’s a compulsive behaviour; may have a genetic element as some races seem much more prone. You also see it with some business people the next deal! They gamble and gamble. It always seemed to me that they sought attention and recognition. Here I am! Perhaps there is a dark side to this a self loathing?

    I don’t know where you would start trying to comprehend such behaviour as it is totally degrading and self destructive and really has no logic. Can see why someone would burn out working in this field.

  • http://tinyurl.com/ohjmv

    Peter Tatchel’s queer take on this in The Guardian

  • Crataegus

    Taigs

    THanks for the link. I regard Peter Tatchel as a well balanced person with interesting and considered views.