Daily Archives: September 11, 2009


We Are All Sex Offenders Now

In another example of the mad obsession with seeking a delusory security no matter what the impact on liberty, the government is bringing in a screening scheme which means that, at the government’s own estimate, 11.4 million people who come into contact with children will need to obtain a certificate to show that they have no relevant criminal record. This will cost them £64 each.

Statistically the chance of any given child being harmed by someone other than a family member is extremely small – and almost certainly no larger than it ever was. This is an extraordinary, even ludicrous, apotheosis of the idea that the state should attempt to pre-empt all evil.

If we can pull back from the manipulation of fear and the exaggeration of risk, the madness of the scheme is evident. Not only Scoutleaders, choirmasters and football coaches will need to be certified, but so will parents who give a lift to other people’s children to school, and authors who enter schools to chat about their books (including me). If you give a lift to school to a neighbour’s children a few times without beiing certified, you will get a criminal record and a £5,000 fine.

Relatives, of course, are exempt – which as they are statistically by a huge degree the most likely people to harm the kids, only further points up the nonsense.

I hesitated to write that, lest the government has the wheeze of bringing in a certificate you need to be an uncle.

The scheme represents a monstrous new bureaucracy and yet a further radical extension of government databases on ordinary people. It will not stop child abuse at all. To take as one example the recent high profile case of Vanessa George, Plymouth nursery teacher accused of child sex abuse. Ms George could have easily obtained a certificate as she had no prior convictions.

Of the 0.00001% of those coming into voluntary and helpful contact with children, who have a secret motive to harm them, most will be volunteering because that is their only opportunity of access. The man who wants to be a scout assistant because he wants access to molest children is not likely to have other access and therefore not likely to have a record which the check will show up – if he’s daft enough to apply in his own name.

There are already other mechanisms which help stop convicted sex offenders committing crime again. They are not perfect, but you will never stop all evil. The determined criminal will get hold of certificates through aliases or forgery if they really wish, or just snatch kids from playgrounds.

This scheme makes as much sense as would a requirement to produce a certificate saying that you are not a bank robber, before you are permitted to enter a bank. A society that can support this scheme has been firghtened out of its senses. The government seeks to treat everyone as a sex offender unless they can prove otherwise. It is crazy. The effect will be to stigmatise normal relationships with children, to point suspicion at anybody who chooses to interact with other people’s children, and to reduce participation in scouts, guides, sports and many other voluntary activities.

Sooner or later an “Agency” run by some of the government’s business friends will be coining money from running the scheme. It’s an ill wind…

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