There’s Always One…

…person who asks awkward questions :-)

And on this occasion it was Rich, asking after my last blog “So what IS the solution?”

The truth is, I don’t know, but a good start would be to stop promoting the counter-productive measures I outlined yesterday: Remember that what I’ve got against these is NOT that they don’t or won’t work, but rather that they’re in danger of working in a bad way.

The lunatic wing of the UK press regularly recycle the demand for the home addresses of all child sex offenders to be published, for the benefit of parents wanting to keep their children safe. Two problems – one is that even the new Home Secretary doesn’t trust his department to get things right, so why should the rest of us? How do I know they’re not going to publish MY name and address in error? The even bigger problem is the effect such a list would have: Imagine yourself a parent with a small child1; you check the newly-published list of names and addresses of known child sex offenders, and discover there are none living near you. Does that make you feel safe? Do you think your children aren’t at risk? If so, you must be stupid. The names on the list are the offenders who’ve been caught, that’s all – and even they’re capable of catching a bus. Sadly some people2 ARE daft enough that they’d fall for it.

As for the Criminal Records Bureau – the press was recently full of stories about the number of innocent people who’ve been turned down for jobs and university places because they’d accidentally been given a false bad report, because they had similar details to someone else. Given that there’s someone living in Southampton with the same name as me, who used to regularly feature in the court reports in the local paper, I’m a bit concerned about that. So many organisations assume that if you’ve got a clear CRB report, you must be OK, yet all such a report really proves is that you haven’t been caught – and it probably doesn’t even prove that, since if they’re doling out false bad reports, there’s probably been some false good ones as well.

So, identity cards: Anyone read “The Day of the Jackal”? It’s a 1971 novel3 in which the lead character obtains a false passport by stealing the identity of someone who died in infancy. Amazingly, according to the novel’s auther Frederick Forsyth, with minor variations the method would still work, and that’s before the possibility of forgery is considered. I don’t see the ID card scheme particularly doing harm in itself – but if anyone takes them at face value and relaxes their guard, then THAT will be damaging. In other words, they won’t do any good either.

All that said, I still don’t know what the answer is – although I’m prepared to guess that if an answer IS ever found, it’ll be hideously complex. I just don’t think that measures which don’t do any good – while encouraging people to relax their guard by APPEARING to work – can be a good thing.

1 Some of you won’t have to imagine, of course
2 Probably the same ones who burn down the home of a paedatrician, because they don’t know the difference
3 And a 1973 film starring Edward Fox

Comments are closed.