Almost everything I read in the press right now is a bad news story. Some go beyond bad news, they’re horror stories from the Clive Barker or Richard Laymon genre. The one that took my breath away today for all the wrong reasons is the story of a paedophile who abducted and seriously abused a 10-year-old boy in Oldbury, about 40 miles north of our home town. The fact that this predator captured and assaulted the boy was bad enough. The story goes on to suggest torture and possibly death were ultimately intended for the youngster had he not managed to escape.
I do not have adequate words to describe how I feel about this situation, or all the others that go on everyday in respectable neighbourhoods here and elsewhere around the world. What I can describe is my bitter disappointment and exasperation with the British legal system, a system that is supposed to ensure justice is served.
Wikipedia states “The essence of English common law is that it is made by judges sitting in courts, applying their common sense and knowledge of legal precedent (stare decisis) to the facts before them.” Unfortunately the facts about this particular paedophile extend to the jail sentence he received in 1983 for kidnapping and assaulting a teenaged girl at knife-point, as well as the abduction and abuse of a 10-year-old girl just one month before he kidnapped the young boy at the heart of this story.
I do not care what legal precedent says about this case. Applying common sense to the facts before us demonstrates that this man presented a serious ongoing risk to children and like many paedophiles, a jail sentence did nothing to deter him. This time around he’s been sentenced to the minimum term – 7 years – however the judge stated this should not be seen as the minimum since his release will only be granted once the Parole Board is satisfied he presents no significant threat. (Again?)
Let’s take a closer look at this aspect of the British justice system. A 7 year minimum term with some mention of dependency on the view of the Parole Board. A minimum term that doesn’t even represent a year for each year of this young lad’s life to date. Sadly I suspect it will take him and his family more than 10 years to rebuild their lives (if rebuilding is even possible in such circumstances).
And what faith can we have in the Parole Board? Someone let this man back onto the streets sometime after 1983. Let’s guess he received a 7 year sentence back then so was released for good behaviour in 1990, presumably on the assumption that he no longer posed a threat to society. Or to be more specific, the most vulnerable members of society – children – who are unable to defend themselves and often too terrified to speak out following abuse. How flawed that decision to release him proved to be.
I am sick, sick and tired of reading and hearing these stories and not a week goes by without them. They make me far sicker than dealing with breast cancer ever could. But it seems my only option to avoid such news (since justice is doing so little to prevent it), is to stop reading, stop listening, put on some rose-tinted specs and pretend everything is OK.
It is not OK. I don’t want to self-censor news stories in case they repulse, upset or annoy me. I don’t want to stick my head in the sand and lah-lah-lah my way through this kind of news on the radio or TV. I want our legal system to wise-up. This is the 21st Century; we have decades of evidence to suggest those with an inclination towards paedophilia retain that inclination throughout their lifetime. In my view, true justice means never offering these people an opportunity to re-offend, even if that entails incarcerating them for the rest of their lives.
We, society and the legal system, must recognise – as common sense does – that life-long psychological incarceration is exactly the sentence paedophiles serve for every single one of their victims. It is not OK.