December 18, 2003

Good luck to the National Crime Squad's new online paedophile trap scheme, Project Pin. I have a feeling that the technically adept will be find ways around this easily enough, though, and the online paedophiles seem to be nothing if not technically adept. Anonymous browsing isn't rocket science, for a start. Still, it'll hopefully sweep up a number of dangerous people, and perhaps the Project Pin people have a few tricks of their own. Lets hope so.

(I have heard the argument that users of paedophile pornography aren't actually doing anything wrong - as opposed to those who abuse children directly. This is, of course, bollocks. Users of paedophile pornography create a market, children are abused to fulfil this market, and they are heavily responsible for this abuse.)

I've heard nothing to indicate that Ian Huntley was active online, so Project Pin wouldn't have identified him even had it existed. But we see now that he had a history of allegations of sexual offences, so background checks should have prevented him from working with children in the first place.

There are certainly human rights issues to consider here. If someone is not convicted of an offence, is it right that it should stain their character? It's a tough one. I think that when it comes to the compilation of a register of those who might pose a risk to children, a civil standard of proof should be sufficient. That is to say - a person cannot (and should not) be convicted of a crime unless the evidence proves guilt beyond reasonable doubt, but that this information should be available on the register if the preponderance of evidence indicates reason to be concerned. Clearly, by this standard, Huntley would have been on such a register.

When I say 'available' here, I do mean available to those who have a good reason for needing to know - those who employ people to work with children. If this information were to be available too easily, vigilantes would certainly make use of it. (It might distract them from attacking paediatricians, I suppose.) There should also be an appeals process.

And the there's Michael Jackson. Sigh. I just don't know what to think about this. I can quite believe that there was something untoward going on - after all, his childhood would be enough to screw anybody up. But then, on the other hand, I can equally believe that the allegations were fabricated, motivated by greed for publicity or cash. I suppose that we'll never know - the chances of a fair trial must be just about zero.

But let's keep this whole predatory paedophile thing in perspective. Parents: if you are worried about your child's safety (and all of you are), teach them to cross the road. Over 300 children were killed crossing the road in the UK in just one year (according to the 1999 figures, the latest that I've been able to find online). Whereas the danger of your child being murdered by a stranger is tiny - according to The Sunday Times (6/8/95): "Despite the scepticism of parents, the murder figures look relatively reassuring. Between 1983 and 1993, on average 86 children under 16 were killed each year in England and Wales, mostly by their parents and minders. But the number murdered by strangers has been tiny, averaging five a year... children are not becoming more vulnerable to homicide". And this figure is pretty static, too: it's not on the increase.

The number of parents I see dragging their children across busy roads appals me. What do they think they are teaching them? I always use a pedestrian crossing when I'm with the girls, if there's one available, and I always wait for the green light. (I wait for the green light when any children are around, in fact.) If there's no pedestrian crossing, we do the full 'green cross code' thing, and I make the girls tell me when they think it's safe to cross.

Deep breath. Deep breath.

OK, rant over.

Posted to The Big Room by Simon Brunning at December 18, 2003 02:57 PM
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