Monday, June 19, 2006

Megan's Law/Sarah's Law

The Home Secretary's pronouncements that we may be adopting our own version of Megan's Law here in England concerns me. I hope that Gerry Sutcliffe's fact finding trip to America is a genuine fact-finding one and that he will listen to all sides of the srgument.

It seems to me that the Home Office is in such a shambles at the moment that John Reid is making a series of announcements designed to please the tabloid mob, rather than genuinely protect public safety.

I have real problems with Megan's Law, or Sarah's Law as it will be known here. Does letting parents know where sex offenders live protect children? If there is imperical evidence that it does then I would support it, it just seems to me that it can't be proved. More than 80% of child sex abuse victims are targeted by family members or family friends - this new law will do nothing to protect them. Paedophiles will go to where children are - this list will simply send them out of their own areas to look for victims. It will also increase the likliehood of recently released criminals going underground and out of contact with their parole officers.

We'll also have the spectacle of the mob hounding people out of their homes because they have a name like someone on the list - God help all the innocent John Smiths out there. And the paediatricians and podiatrists? They're just asking for it with a name like that.

I would rather see much tougher sentences in the first place with the option of NEVER releasing convicted child sex offenders if they are deemed to still pose a risk.

But where does it stop? I don't have children but the thought of a rapist living next door isn't appealing to me, nor frankly is the idea of a convicted violent robber or house-breaker.

Better that the Home Office concentrate on amending existing legislation, abolishing automatic right of release after half a sentence is served and the third of a tariff being knocked off for pleading guilty. Ensure that the public are secure in their trust of sentencing and probation and you won't have to resort to these ridiculous headline grabbing efforts.

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