There has been a lot of media coverage surrounding this case
recently. Much of it is likely to have been puerile; some of it may have been irresponsible. The finer points of the legal details may have been overlooked. Some profoundly unpleasant people may have read the articles with glee, deluding themselves that this man’s crime somehow absolves them of their own failings. That is all largely irrelevant in comparison to the main point – it is outrageous and absurd that someone convicted of a crime of this nature should expect to leave prison at all.
Many intelligent people - and by no means all of them are of a politically insane persuasion – often question why so many of us reserve a particular revulsion for this particular crime, and these particular criminals. They argue that those who murder do something worse, and that those who defraud hurt many more people. Singling out these people for special condemnation is clumsy and immature in these commentators’ eyes, and may betray a disordered attitude to sex. These crimes may actually be comparatively trivial, they argue. Or else they can be explained away and readily forgiven. It is time to slay this dragon.
One cannot legislate for what others find revolting. And there is something very unattractive about mocking working class people for having the temerity to fear for the safety of their children. A visceral revulsion for this crime is wholly appropriate. The crime distorts that which should be wholesome and healthy – love and sex – and forces children to experience things that no-one should have to experience at a time not of their choosing. I may be deprecated for saying that I would rather take supper with a murderer or an embezzler or anyone else ahead of someone who has violated that rule, but I would.
Nor is it wholly irrational. There is something else that distinguishes this sort of person from others. That is the likelihood of rehabilitation. It is perfectly possible for a murderer to purge themselves of those demons that drove them to that act, and for the embezzler to resolve to lead an honest life. They cannot wipe out their past transgressions. But they can cease to be a murderer or a fraudster. I do not believe that the equivalent can be said of those who commit the crime we are discussing.
Of course if someone has such inclinations and does not act on them then they are morally superior to someone who does act. But if such inclinations are uncovered, we should not presume that we can give someone the benefit of the doubt. And make no mistake – every prisoner released from incarceration is given the benefit of the doubt. There are never any guarantees that someone will not reoffend.
What could we expect from efforts to rehabilitate the people under discussion? One of three things:
1. They are completely cured, and rejoin society as a charming, urbane heterosexual / homosexual. They form normal and healthy relationships, and can be given our complete trust.
2. They maintain their fundamental sexual persuasion, but have the discipline not to act upon it.
3. They reoffend.
Of these possibilities, 1 is sheer fantasy, 2 is too big a risk, and 3 is intolerable (and yet currently commonplace).
I don’t believe that anyone in prison should be treated in an inhumane manner, I dislike mob mentality, and I believe that everyone should be given an opportunity to make themselves a better person. But I also believe, passionately, that some people should be locked up until they die. It is perfectly proportionate and sensible to say that everyone who has or would hurt a child in this way should face such a sentence. It is the law that is an ass.
We can debate what motivates people, what other crimes we abhor, and all other peripheral issues at our greater leisure. We need to seize the nettle on sentencing now. It is high time that there was a cross party consensus on this issue, and a united determination to legislate. Where European or international law prevents us from acting, we should ignore it.