current affairs

Protecting communities or undermining justice?

This week we heard about a joint venture by charities and Oxford West & Abingdon MP, Nicola Blackwood, to crack down on the grooming and exploitation of children in our communities.

This week we heard about a joint venture by charities and Oxford West & Abingdon MP, Nicola Blackwood, to crack down on the grooming and exploitation of children in our communities. Their proposal was to amend the Antisocial Behaviour Bill to include Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Orders (CSAPO) which would allow the police extra powers in this particular area of crime.

The campaign claims that the best course of action is to allow the police to restrict the movements of people who have been suspects in sexual abuse trials involving children. The current law already affords the authorities various powers under which a convicted sex offender must inform police of their whereabouts and the police can impose a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) to limit the places a convicted offender can travel.

Is this a just campaign?

Whilst the Home Office has said it would “consider” the proposals put forward by the campaign, surely this is not just? Whilst I whole heartedly agree that more must be done to protect the children of our communities, undermining the whole legal concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ is not the way such an intelligent government should progress.

The proposal states that this would allow the UK authorities to pursue gangs of child sex offenders with more purpose, surely on the opposite side of the sword this would allow for the continued harassment of a potentially innocent person?

This becomes evidently clear when we assess the criteria by which a person might become a suspect under the rules put forward in this proposal.

Pursue based on hearsay evidence

Under the proposal, police would be allowed to pursue an order against a person based on hearsay evidence. That is the word of a person and other intelligence. It specifically states that the alleged victim does not need to play a part in this ‘other intelligence.’

This would allow the court to then stop the suspect from having children in their car or living within a close proximity to a school even if they already reside there.

Undermines the UK justice system

Looking at this with somewhat of a cynical eye this system whilst pure at the core, is ill-thought out and is in need of major re-structuring before it can be taken seriously.

For example, under this proposal a disgruntled parent could make claims against their former partner and even after being cleared in court they could then apply for a CSAPO which would restrict them from picking their own children up from school or from driving them in their own car.

The proposal not only undermines exactly what the UK justice system stands for but completely eliminates the need for a fair trial. If they are found not guilty then they may still have an order imposed against them or perhaps if the police do not find enough evidence to charge them then still they will be restricted for an indefinite amount of time all on the basis of the word of a neighbour holding a grudge or an overprotective parent.

Proposal undermines confidence in community

By all means these claims should be investigated but to continue to restrict a person’s movements after an investigation has taken place and the person in question has been cleared is one step too far.

Whilst this may hinder the occasional sex offender, it will detrimentally affect many more innocent men and woman who have done nothing wrong other than perhaps be in the wrong place at the wrong time or who have annoyed the wrong person. A CSAPO would not stop a sex offender set on grooming—it would merely push them further into hiding.

This proposal will only affect the innocent and undermine the confidence that the community have in the police force due to the adverse treatment many families would suffer from having done nothing to deserve the extra attention of the UK authorities.

No one will know the meaning of the word community

The ‘Childhood Lost’ campaign is pure in theory but practically inept and must be categorically dismissed by the Home Office. It requires a much more stringent set of criteria to highlight the real dangers in our society rather than casting a wide net in which many innocent people will become entangled in.

This will not only waste valuable police time but cause every family to become suspicious of what may be nothing more than a friendly neighbourhood mother or local shop owner and eventually no one will know the meaning of the word community, the one thing we set out to protect.

What do you think of the proposal and current CSAPO laws? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.