Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Madness of Megans Law

I am still fuming after listening to the Today programme this morning reporting the news that parents are to be given the right to know if paedophiles are living near their homes as part of a pilot project.

The move follows years of campaigning by parents for Megan's Law - named after a similar rule which was introduced in the US. North East Somerset will be the first area to test the scheme after the idea was championed by local MP Dan Norris.

The points batted backwards and forward across the airwaves by the pro-and anti factions revolve around the liklihood of sex offenders 'going to ground' and disappearing through fear of reprisal; the justice or otherwise of allowing the public to identify these people and the relative liklihood of such a move being 'effective' in reducing the risks.

My anger has been provoked by the madness our criminal justice system is infected with.

These people are either:
1) still at risk of offending against children in which case they should not be at liberty; or
2) 'cured' (or were never a risk in the first place) in which case why do we need to be warned about them?

The sex offenders register is a dogs breakfast attempt to make good a fatal flaw in our justice system - the public no longer trust that 'rehabilitated' violent or dangerous criminals are in fact safe.

The prime responsibility of the criminal justice system should be to protect the law-abiding from the law-breaking; but for much of the last forty years we have instead been pretending that the role of our prison system is to try and 'cure' criminal behaviour.

And it hasn't worked; anywhere. The sex offenders register was the first time in modern times that the legal system has accepted the possibility that some people may potentially never be safe; but it is a bad compromise that achieves nothing.

Instead of making a bad situation worse, we need a new agreement between the courts and the public that offers justice and safety.

And yes, that does mean more prisons and less parole.

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