Last week’s media coverage of numerous serious sex offenders being released from the standard inadequate sentences only to reoffend and destroy further lives was no surprise. We’re so used to it that such episodes are no longer guaranteed to make the front pages, although the Scottish Sun’s juxtaposition of the treatment of one such offender with the extremely harsh treatment of the van driver fined for not being in control of his vehicle because he was spotted by a twat of a copper blowing his nose (while standing still and with his handbrake on) was brilliantly used on its cover.
It’s of no comfort that similar things are happening in England as well. The mum of a girl of nine rightly wanted to know why Simon Heaton was bailed and free to rape her daughter despite having already been accused of a brutal attack on a girl of ten.
The law is reluctant to treat sex offending as different from other types of crime. But it is different. The effects are life-long, unlike the joke sentences now being dished out by our courts. The rape of a child is now worth about six years _ which actually means serving between three and four, with four the absolute maximum even if you tell your psychologist as they prepare to release you that you plan to do it again. The police took such a case to court not long ago, demanding that an offender not be released as he freely admitted his ultimate fantasy was to abduct, rape and murder a pre-pubescent girl. They lost, and he’s in a community near you.
It’s time we demanded that the people who make decisions that ruin lives are made accountable. If a lawyer representing a sex offender demands bail under human rights laws or under the now outdated notion that an accused is innocent until found guilty (the standards of evidence have improved so much that you can be pretty sure if they’re in the dock they’re guilty), let him (or her) put their money where their mouth is. If the client offends while on bail, let’s make it an offence for the lawyer to have misrepresented said client to the court.
If professionals who assess a life prisoner decide he’s fit to release, or indeed if they release him earlier than necessary from a determinate sentence, let’s hold them to account as well if he reoffends. A few sackings might see them make their judgments with more care for the community and less for the offender.
It’s time voters left politicians in no doubt of how we want the justice system to deal with serious sex offenders. Ideally, we want them locked up for life, and if that’s unattainable they need to be tagged for life in the community. Most criminals of any description don’t want to be caught. The risk of rapists and child sex offenders reoffending and ruining more lives won’t disappear if they’re tagged, but if they know that tag will place them precisely at the scene of the crime, most will think again.
I’d suggest that such a policy, if embraced by any of the major political parties, might win them a few votes.