Gloating: Glitter’s twisted smile..”

I don’t think I’m being unduly pious at feeling uneasy at the sight of all those mikes and cameras shoved up the nose of the wretched Gary Glitter in airports in two hemispheres. Picadors dancing round before the kill is what it looked like. Needless to say, the press ignored the obvious point that the prospect of their endless hounding might have been Glitter’s bigger reason for avoiding coming home to Britain. The requirement to sign the paedophile register and report once a week may have seemed a trivial prospect to him by comparison. The UK papers divided predictably between the heavies and the tabloids.

As the newagency AFP reported,the Daily Mirror newspaper branded Glitter “Club Class Paedo” on its front page, while The Sun, which spoke to “Gary Gloater” on the plane from Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok, ran the headline: “Creepy Glitter stroked my arm and called me sweetie”

My Sun’s 57 pages of 2Discussions includes the comment:

lets hope the firing squad is there
The Daily Mirror posed an inane top in its “5 big questions of the week”.

(1) Gary Glitter returning to England just months before his 65th birthday. What do you think the response would be if he applied to become a lollipop man?
As usual the Daily Mail excelled itself in moralistic outrage, first with the picture caption:
Gloating: Glitter’s twisted smile as he tries to avoid returning to Britain

And then from columnist ( and ex-William Hague press secretary) Amanda Platell, sharing her venom for Glitter with the Home Secretary and asking: Who gave this reptilian exhibitionist the oxygen of publicity? Who propelled him to world notoriety and made his claims for state protection legitimate?
Step forward Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. Instead of allowing Glitter to return to Britain with minimum fuss, to be placed on the child sex offenders’ register, she thought this might be an ideal chance to earn a few Brownie points through a bit of high-profile paedo-bashing.”
Once again, Her Majesty’s popular Press excels itself in quarry-bashing.

The Guardian’s veteran columnist Alexander Chancellor struck out at the pops, joined later by the Independent’s Matthew Norman:

Some of you may share the apparent belief of The Sun and The Daily Mirror that this is a noble ambition; that a man with convictions for downloading child pornography here and having sex with underage girls in the Far East has forfeited the right to life, as Margaret Thatcher once memorably declared of IRA terrorists.”
“No country in its right mind would want this pervert at large on its soil,” said a Daily Mail article. “All we can hope is that, wherever he ends up, he will be locked away until he ceases to be a threat to children.” But we traditionally lock people up only for crimes they have committed, not for crimes they may commit in the future. And, anyway, how will the Mail know “when he ceases to be a threat to children”? It can’t and won’t, so it presumably wants him locked up for life, just to be on the safe side.

The Daily Telegraph contented itself with pointing out that the quarry is not exactly on his last legs, with personal wealth of between £1 million and £5 million”

But it was Carol Sarler in The Times who fairly bravely raised a fundamental though unpopular question about paedophilia: crime or disease?

If Gary Glitter is a criminal, and not mentally ill, then he has paid the price and we should not punish him again, says Carol Sarler in The Times
If we accept that paedophilia is an illness – and there are reasoned voices who say that it is – then, by definition, we accept it as being beyond the control of its sufferer in exactly the way that we accept schizophrenia. Therefore, we should respond as such: if a man, for reasons not remotely his fault, is posing a risk to others, he should be subject to sectioning under the Mental Health Act, with all the appropriate regret, sympathy and kindness that accompanies such a move.”

Perhaps Glitter’s enforced homecoming will ignite a debate about the paedophilia. More likely, he’ll pass into obscurity until the first time he tries to leave the country and a paid tip-off merchant rings up the pops.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London