Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Crime and punishment

No not the boring novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky (well I found it boring, mental anguish and moral dilemmas about murder are not my cup of tea) No this is a rant at the Supreme Court of the UK and their (mis)use of the Human Rights Act.

Thousands of sex offenders, including rapists and paedophiles, will be able to apply to be removed from the sex crimes register under human rights laws, the Government has announced. 
A Supreme Court ruling has forced the Government reluctantly to draw up new rules allowing serious sex offenders put on the register for life to have their place on the list reconsidered.
The Home Office plans were opposed by child protection campaigners and Conservative MPs, who said some offenders could never be considered completely “safe”. The new rules were drawn up because the Supreme Court ruled that automatic lifetime inclusion on the register breached the Human Rights Act.
David Cameron said the ruling was “offensive,” but ministers say they have no choice but to comply by changing the rules on the register.
The case is the latest involving the Act to set judges against political opinion. It has increased calls for reform of the Act, which is being reviewed by a Coalition committee.
Under current rules, anyone sentenced to more than 30 months in jail for a sexual offence is put on the register for life on release. Those on the register are monitored by police and visited regularly by officers. The Home Office estimates that there are about 44,000 people on the register, about 25,000 of them for life.
Now normally I'm of the opinion that once you've paid your debt to society as a criminal then other than a period of time in which an employer can ask if you have a criminal record, that's it, your life is yours to lead as you see fit barring a few areas of employment where there might be some conflict of interest such as the police or security forces. A fully rehabilitated ex con is an asset to society providing they can find work and pay their way (though that's a different story) and shouldn't be further punished once his/her time is done.
Sexual predators though are a different story, in some cases it's more in the way of a mental illness, psychological rather than sociological in that it's about the way they think rather than the effects of society upon them. Like any patient with a history of mental illness they need keeping an eye on, if necessary for the rest of their lives as many of them don't see anything wrong with what they do/did nor feel any remorse.
Simple fact is, some people do need keeping an eye on permanently and kept from contact in some employment areas or other association with their potential victims, be it women, children or in odd cases men. Even I can see the point of this, you don't put wolves into the sheep pen, because whilst you can rehabilitate a dog, a wolf remains a wolf and though there are times we probably ought too, we no longer cull wolves.
Again the courts come out with a judgement that might put ordinary people at risk, all to do with the poorly legislated Human Rights Act which placed all rights on a level playing field instead of grading them from basic to full. Criminals and sexual predators should only have restricted rights, once an ordinary criminal is released though he gets his full rights back. A sexual (or violent) predator who is still deemed to be a danger to the public though should remain on a far tighter chain as we're supposed to with mental patients and care in the community.
Truly the law is an ass!

2 annotations:

Bucko said...

I agree with your first paragraph and I beleive it still stands, even in the case of sex offenders.
The sex offenders register was a political act rather than a criminal justice one, brought in in the wake of typical media outrage.
We don't have burglar registers or murderer registers, and murder is a more serious crime than sex abuse.

I don't beleive we should be registering people who have paid their debt to society. What I do question is why we release people who can never be considered 'safe'.

If a person is no longer considered a threat to others and their sentance is up, they should be released and left alone. If they are still considered a threat they they should either remain inside prison or a mental facility.

Maybe the sex offenders register should be replaced with a clause that allows offenders to be kept in prison (or hospital) for as long as they are still deemed a threat, rather than giving them set sentances.

English Pensioner said...

People are put into prison for punishment and hopefully rehabilitation. Once they have served their sentence they should be released and permitted to get on with their lives. If "experts" decide that a person has not been rehabilitated and continues to be a threat to the community (whether he is a paedophile or a simple burglar) we need to find some way of controlling them for the protection of our society. I have no idea how this might be done, but I am far from convinced that the sex offenders register contributes in any way to this ultimate objective, being, as Bucko says, merely a political act in response to public pressure at the time and not a carefully considered course of action.