Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Why "Sarah's Law" is a terrible idea

Yesterday, The Sun reported that "parents will have the legal right from today to information about paedophiles who may harm their children." However, considering that the paper has been at the forefront of the issue with its vile "name and shame" campaign, the triumphalism seemed rather muted. The paper announces that "campaigners last night hailed the measure as a step towards a full “Sarah’s Law”" and yet fails to give itself any credit.

Perhaps the reason why is because the Sun and its sister paper, The News of the World, succeeded only in inspiring rabid vigilantism in its readership. The most shocking and surreal example being that reported a while back in The Guardian, which I have previously cited;
Self-styled vigilantes attacked the home of a hospital paediatrician after apparently confusing her professional title with the word "paedophile", it emerged yesterday.

Dr Yvette Cloete, a specialist registrar in paediatric medicine at the Royal Gwent hospital in Newport, was forced to flee her house after vandals daubed it with graffiti in the middle of the night.

This kind of behaviour is precisely what we would expect in the wake of such a campaign, and indeed with the full introduction of "Sarah's Law". I have gone into depth about how the hysteria about paedophiles does more harm than good in another article on this site - from the violence it inspires, often towards innocents, to the increased risk towards children by driving paedophiles underground - but I think it is worthwhile now going over the most recent story again, particularly the criticisms of the move, as omitted by The Sun, but thankfully picked up by more reliable newspapers such as The Independent and The Times:
Martin Narey, the former head of the Prison Service, who is now chief executive of Barnardo’s, said: “Disclosing the whereabouts of sex offenders will not necessarily make children any safer. We still remain concerned that this is not the best way to protect children.

“Children’s safety must come first, and disclosure will only plunge children into greater danger. I am gravely concerned that the effect of greater disclosure will prompt more sex offenders to flee police and probation supervision, at which point they become very dangerous indeed.”

Police and children’s charities have already forced the Government to rule out a wider publication of the names and addresses of child sex offenders as happens under “Megan’s Law” in the United States.

My previous comment on the issue and the quotes above illustrate all the main arguments against the absurd culture of "Tabloid Vigilantism" and its fulfilment in "Sarah's Law," but I would make one last observation. hen their ideas are not only shown to lead to carnage and chaos, but are strongly refuted by charities whose purpose is the protection of children, what deficiency is it in these people's minds that makes them think there remains any justification for their course of action?