Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sex offences: the fallout

As I discussed the other day, I'm very much not happy with the idea that anyone simply cautioned over sexual offences can then never work with children.

Today though, this has been confirmed by education minister Ruth Kelly, despite the fact that the 10 people cautioned but still allowed to work in schools were assessed to pose no threat to children.

I honestly cannot believe that this has happened. Surely, whenever an individual is accused of a crime, the case takes on a certain degree of uniqueness; in order for the case to be resolved fairly and correctly, it is imperative that the specific actions of the case are taken into account - mitigating circumstances, premeditation, provocation etc. etc. There is no black and white to this, there really isn't; each case must be looked at on an individual basis and appropriate steps taken according to its findings. If a person is deemed to be no threat to children, let them work with children, if they're not, make sure they don't get anywhere near them for as long as they are considered a threat.

What's happened now though is that if you're on the list, you're never getting off, and you're never teaching children again. You will not be treated individually over this, you are a Sex Offender and will be so for life. Does this happen to any other type of criminal, to the extent that the can never work in that field again? Is not the purpose of a sentence that once the time is served that person is considered absolved of their crimes?

And that's the criminals - those cautioned either face moving heaven and earth to clear their names, or having their lives ruined even though they technically remain innocent. (Of course, they may be quite, quite guilty, but without a trial, how is anyone supposed to know?)

Mat interjects via email with a good point that being cautioned means you're actually accepting guilt

I'm assuming that in many cases, especially sex offences, a person will quite happily accept a caution on the grounds it doesn't lead on to a court case and everything that goes with that. Being scared witless of being labelled a paedophile and having an easy get out clause is not exactly a good marker for justice.

And, of course, getting cautioned for something which you did do, doesn't necessarily mean you are then unfit to work with children. It all depends on the specifics, which this act is doing its level best to stifle.

I doubt this decision will be reversed; I suppose that any attempt, even in the calm light of hindsight, will be met by howls of 'think of the children', but I hope with all my heart that someone in power recognises this for the awful decision that it is. I won't hold my breath.

1 comment:

Jonn Elledge said...

According to Lord Adonis, anyone convicted of sexual offences while a teenager will be included by the ban.

So a 16 year old who is cautioned for having sex with a 15 year old will never be able to work in a schools.

Thank god we live in a responsive democracy, eh?