TheOpinionSite.org does not usually reprint articles from other websites. On this occasion however, we break that rule. The Guardian website reports in clear and simple terms one of the great lies of the tabloid press in startling simplicity; that Sarah’s Law is a fraud, a waste of money and a populist measure sanctioned by a weak Home Secretary.
The so called “Sarah’s Law”, so beloved by child protection charities, policemen, social workers, probation officers and vote-hungry politicians is a fraud. It always was a fraud and was a populist measure introduced by Theresa May as a populist sap to those whom she lacks the courage to resist.
May fell hopelessly into the same trap as David Blunkett and Jacqui Smith before her and gave in to the mob instead of standing up for rational thought and common sense.
TheOpinionSite.org congratulate David Wilson and The Guardian on revealing what we all knew – that politicians in general and Home Secretaries in particular will do anything to get votes, headlines and popularity, even if it means betraying the truth.
It costs about £7,500 every time someone invokes ‘Sarah’s Law’. That is money that would undoubtedly be better spent on supporting the real and genuine methods of child protection that are known to work and that have been used for years. Instead, huge amounts are now wasted on a political gesture that helps nobody, destroys the lives of individuals and wrecks families.
The article is reprinted below:
There is no evidence that the News of the World’s ‘naming and shaming’ campaign protects children from predatory paedophiles
The final edition of the News of the World claimed that its “naming and shaming” campaign, which led to the introduction of the child sex offender disclosure scheme (CSODS), commonly known as Sarah’s law, had proven that the paper was a “force for good”.
The paper’s controversial approach to outing known paedophiles in the wake of the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne in 2000 by Roy Whiting, did indeed prompt the process that led directly to the CSODS. The scheme allows parents, carers and guardians of children to formally ask the police to tell them if someone that might have access to their children has a record of child sexual offences. It was initially trialled in four police areas in 2008, later extended to eight further police force areas and then rolled out across England and Wales.
But has the scheme been a “force for good”? Has it helped to protect children from predatory paedophiles like Whiting, or has naming and shaming – albeit in the limited way allowed in law – been counterproductive, in that it changes a paedophile’s behaviour, forcing them “underground” and so making it much more difficult for the authorities to keep track of them?
Given that the pilot schemes were evaluated you would imagine that this would be a relatively easy question to answer – especially as that evaluation prompted CSODS to become adopted throughout the country. Yet, as the authors of the evaluation, Professor Hazel Kemshall and Dr Jason Wood, acknowledge, the aim of their report was about process.
They wanted to determine “how successfully the pilots have provided members of the public with a formal mechanism for requesting information about individuals who have access to children and who may have convictions for child sex offending” – rather than attempting to answer the question of whether or not such schemes actually protected children.
As part of their evaluation Kemshall and Wood interviewed 61 registered sex offenders (RSOs). However, some of these RSOs had not offended against children, and crucially none had been disclosed against; as the authors openly admit, this simple fact does represent a limitation of the study.
So, the evaluation that led to the scheme being rolled out across the nation hasn’t really got anything to tell us at all about whether or not paedophiles who might be about to be “named and shamed”, or indeed had been “named and shamed”, would respond, or did respond, if they found that their name, personal details or photographs were about to be, or had been splashed all over the front pages of a tabloid newspaper.
But what did the evaluation tell us?
That there had been 159 applicants asking for disclosure during the period covered, and of these more than 50% had been requests about an ex-partner’s new partner, a family member, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a neighbour. In other words, these requests were not about “stranger-danger” – predatory paedophiles roaming the country looking for children to abduct – but were about people who were known to the families who were making the requests.
No surprises there then, for we know that only about 20% of child sexual offences are committed by strangers, and that children are much more likely to be abused (80%) by someone that they know and trust, rather than by a stranger within the community.
Would the scheme have prevented Sarah Payne being murdered? The evidence from the pilot schemes suggests that it would not – Whiting would have had to have raised suspicions in the local community, which in turn might have prompted the Paynes to have contacted the police about whether or not he was dangerous.
Sadly, that does not remotely resemble the circumstances in which Sarah was abducted and murdered.
But perhaps the scheme has prevented other children being abducted and murdered? Again it is difficult to see any evidence that might support this, although we should remember that the CSODS does sit alongside the more robust multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) which can claim a greater degree of success in protecting children (though that has yet to be proved – Ed)
So, was the “naming and shaming” campaign a “force for good”, as the News of the World claims?
There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that it was, and we also know from evaluations from similar schemes in other countries – such as Megan’s law in the US and Christopher’s law in Canada – that, in the words of the most recent evaluation from 2008 of the impact of Megan’s law that it has “showed no demonstrable effect in reducing sexual offences”.
Let’s not get too teary-eyed and enthusiastic about a campaign that had little to recommend it in the first place, and which led to a policy that does not appear to have had the success that is claimed on its behalf.