So the Home Secretary John Reid has caved in to tabloid newspaper pressure and is sending his junior Minister Gerry Sutcliffe on a taxpayer funded
summer holiday "fact finding mission" to the United States to examine child molester "naming and shaming" laws (the term "paedophile" meaning "child lover" is a cruel euphemism akin to Orwellian newspeak)
Exactly how much will this trip cost us, when, according to the BBC
New offenders law 'not necessary'
An expert in rehabilitating sex offenders says a government fact-finding trip to the US is a waste of money.
Ray Wyre was speaking about minister Gerry Sutcliffe's examination of a sex offender system in the US called Megan's Law.
The trip was not needed, he said, because the law has already been investigated by officials.
Eighty per cent of sexual abuse is on children in families, he said.
"They're not going notify the community about those men because they're not allowed to identify who the children are.
"And it just worries me that a new home secretary comes and doesn't appear to know what his department, his government has been doing for years and years, and why they came up with sex offender register, multi-agency public protection panels."
We have extreme doubts about the failed US approach, especially with public web access to such data. We wrote this back on 1st March this year -
Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill 2006 - when did you stop beating your child ? (N.B. this Bill gets its 2nd Reading in the Commons on Monday 19th June):
We would like to see, those people who are contemplating setting up this "instant online barring list check" in the UK, put in prison, if they ignore the lessons of the near disasters encountered by about a dozen different States in the USA , chronicled by MSNBC journalist Bob Sullivan in January 2001.
Many US states set up online Web based access to their Sex Offender Registers, in the wake of "Megan's Law", precisely for job employment vetting due diligence and also to allow the public to see if a registered sex offender was living near to them or to a local school etc., something which has been resisted on the grounds that it would, given the tabloid hysteria prevalent in the UK, be likely to lead to vigilante attacks. Like most Government departments, once the initial media panic was over, they neglected to upgrade their computer systems and keep them up to date with the latest security patches, and no fewer than 11 States had remotely exploitable (Microsoft UNICODE vulnerability) front end web servers, accepting queries from the public, and displaying the results from the allegedly secure back end database systems (some of which were also remotely exploitable via the internet as well).
The potential risk was that real sex offenders could have had any "hits" filtered out and not displayed to the public, or for the devastating libel and possible lynch mob consequences of an innocent person being falsely labelled as a sex offender, a tactic which had actually been discussed in various "anti-western / anti-USA" online discussion forums.
There have even been cases, since then, when these systems were allegedly tightened up, where the online Sex Offender Register was data mined as a source of "Identity Theft" details for financial frauds.
We have every reason to believe that any similar system in the UK would also suffer from exactly the same sort of problems.
Gerry Sutcliffe himself was wittering on about introducing extra laws to prevent any such data being used by local vigilante groups.
Why is Yet Another Law need on top of the vast array of existing anti-social behaviour and anti-demonstration and protest, and anti-harassment legislation already in force, as well as the full panoply of laws against violence of any kind ?
In what way are the existing laws insufficient to deal with vigilantes who either attack or harass convicted child molestors or, just as likely, mis-identified innocent people ?
The recent case which sparked off this media frenzy , that of
Craig Sweeney shows that the most dangerous child molestors who kidnap victims do not do so on their own doorsteps, but are perfectly able to use cars or vans to hunt their victims, well away from wherever they are living.
The question of how best to determine if a man like Sweeney is ever safe to release into the community, is what Home Secretary John Reid should be concentrating on and not on more impossible to enforce legislation.
John Reid's announcement about bail hostels near schools smells of "Must be Seen to Be Doing Something" gesture politics.
He did not offer to relocate the 11 bail hostel premises away from schools, so who exactly, will the sex offenders who are to be moved, be replaced by ?
Would you prefer convicted knife wielding mobile phone muggers or drug dealers, to be housed near to your child's school ?