Monday, 15 September 2008

Watered Down Megan's Law

I don't like it. One bit.

I am now old enough to count myself amongst the people who remember paedo-steria of the late '90s and early '00s. Many things came out of it, but the Brass Eye special was the only good one.

The new idea, if you haven't read the story yet, involves giving people the ability to find out if anyone (for anyone, read: men) in their lives have any history of child abuse/domestic abuse which would endanger children.

Why don't I agree? I could trot out the old arguement of how these kind of laws drive people with a history of child abuse underground. I could, and it does. But that's done. It gets to me because it goes against the idea of Justice in this country. The whole idea of going to prison and the like is based around the idea of rehabilitation. Rehabilitation links in to giving people a second chance, a chance to change. In this new pilot scheme, anyone who thinks a man might be a bit of a wrong 'un can check up on them and their past. And if there is anything there and this information comes out, their second chance of a life could be ruined. Again and again, in fact. I am in no way apologising for paedophiles, child abusers or any kind of criminals for that matter. However, this idea of possible persecution stinks of mob rule, and frankly makes me sick to my stomach.


Archivist said...

We live in an age where no punishment short of death or castration is deemed sufficient for male sexual crimes. Male sexuality is considered depraved to begin with, and those men who break laws are considered the lowest of the low. My problem with proposal you've cited is threefold:

(1) Proportionality. The punishment is supposed to fit the crime. The meausures you've outlined will essentially impose a life sentence and, as you astutely note, no opportunity for rehabilitation. Even the guy who smashes in the face of a convenience store clerk is given a chance at rehabilitation.

(2) There is a real possibility of false charges. With children as witnesses, even our Supreme Court has recently made clear that there is an enhanced risk of false testimony for sex offenses. The day we insist on protecting our citizens at the expense of innocent men is the day America abandons its most cherished, bedrock beliefs. Sadly, some of us are already willing to treat innocent men as collateral damage in the war on rape and other sexual offenses.

(3) Will the law's net snag men who don't belong? Most registered sex offenders in certain jurisdictions are on the list only because, as teenagers, they had consensual sex with other teens. Those men do not belong on the list.

OFMN said...

I absolutely agree with your first point in particular. Many years ago we used to imprison criminals and throw away the key, and that was a) barbaric and b) didn't work. In line with the idea of human rights, criminal justice moved towards rehabilitation. If child abusers and paedophiles are considered to the criminals, then they should be treated like criminals and should get a second chance. Most criminals in this country struggle to get a job, with a criminal record a huge black mark against their record. This new scheme would single out some rehabilitated child abusers with - as you put it - a life sentence.