No Megan’s Law for the UK. Good news or bad?

9 06 2007

The issue of sex registers and the rights of parents to check them has been a political hotbed for some time. For my own part I’m still not sure where I stand. On the one hand, you have the very poignant argument put forward by parents of children who’ve been abused or murdered by paedophiles; that if they’d known there were registered sex offenders in the area it would have enabled them to better protect their kids from this threat. Of course I have total sympathy with their plight, and it would take someone very inhuman indeed not to appreciate the pain they have endured, and to acknowledge that it was arguably pain that was easily preventable. However, setting aside my personal feelings, there is the very real risk that paedophiles will be attacked by vigilantes and thugs, thereby pushing them underground, which in turn makes them even more dangerous. Not to mention the fact that it’s courts, not self-appointed hooligans, that should distribute justice.

The threat of reprisals may also serve to make rehabilitation impossible. A few months ago I would have said that rehabilitation of child molesters was impossible but having seen the harrowing film “Secret Life” starring Matthew Macfadyen (which I can highly recommend) I have been willing to acknowledge this possibility. Vigilante attacks ultimately only serve to re-enforce a sex offenders view of themselves; if they’re going to be attacked for the horrible things they’ve done in the past, then there is no way back from the abyss, and so they might as well carry on abusing children. That, naturally, is a message we don’t wish to send out. It’s with this in mind that I really have to praise the UK government (and that in itself is a rare thing for me to do) for coming up with a sensible solution to the issue that stops short of a full “Megan’s Law” (how unsurprising that the Bush administration, taking its cue from right-wing Christian fundamentalism would pass such a law) but yet does tackle the concerns of parents. Megan’s Law doesn’t protect children, it actually puts them at more risk. Hopefully the UK’s piecemeal approach will do a better job.


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