Friday, 19 December 2003

Having My Say

I've been paying some attention to the "Have Your Say" pages on the BBC's web site recently. Its a good idea for Joe Public to be able to comment on the news stories, but you do tend to get a load of nutters on there. (I'm sure its a deliberate ploy by the beeb to fuel reactions.)

I've just been reading the Saddam Hussein (he was captured last weekend) views. A couple of people said, "Try him, then shoot him". Duh? Did I miss something? Do these people want to shoot him even if he's acquitted at a trial? But he won't be acquitted? Then why have a trial in the first place? Another chap made a point about not hearing any anti-war people suggesting he should be set free and reinstated as President of Iraq. As I've said previously, I don't think this was ever the anti-war stance. I don't think anyone particularly liked Saddam being there, the difference was in what you actually do about it. This guy should look at how much money has been spent thus far, and how much is likely to be spent, and ask himself "Was it worth it?" Does he not realise that these funds come out of our taxes?

There was another discussion about Soham and Ian Huntley. Dreadfully sad. The focus is now on the fact that Huntley had had a string of unproven sex-related allegations made against him over the last seven or eight years, none of which picked up on when he applied for the job at the school. Basically, because they were all unproven, the Police force in question (Humberside) dumped them once a period of time had elapsed, in this case just one month. The Police force attributed this to Data Protection, Privacy etc.

It pains me to say that I'd have to go along with the Police Force on this one, though heaven knows they're taking flak left, right and centre over this. But if an allegation is not proven, how can it possibly be worth anything? You've simply got to make a presumption that someone is innocent, unless proven otherwise. It doesn't matter whether this guy had ten or ten thousand allegations made against him - if they were all unproven, it shouldn't affect his chances of getting a job. Plus, this guy would have an enormously strong human rights case going for him if it did. The thing that makes this argument very sad is that when you take that view, you conclude that you can't take preemptive steps against someone like Huntley. Lots of people are talking about lessons to be learned. I'd have to say that keeping data for just one month seems a little on the short side. But equally, I'd be very concerned about that data - and bear in mind it's completely unproven - being maintained indefinitely. After all, this is the kind of information which leads to prejudice, and I think this is true even if the information remained solely in the possession of the Police. After all, Police officers can be just as prejudiced as anyone else, and history shows they're not beyond building false cases against people who've later been found to be completely innocent. So, what do you do?

Well, I'd say you maybe look at how long you keep the information. A year, say. But you don't just do that. You also keep on record full details of the person making the allegation, nominally for the same period. The reason I say this is because just as several allegations against one person would arouse suspicion, so too should multiple allegations made by the same person. False allegations made against law-abiding people are every bit as dangerous, in my opinion.

One final note on the Huntley case. Apparently as well as all of these unproven allegations about Huntley, there was also a Burglary conviction that hadn't been picked up on, due basically to a balls up by one of the police forces involved. Whilst we can debate the other allegations 'til we're blue in the face, this mistake is the unforgivable one. Had this mistake not been made, based on rock-solid data, the two girls would still be alive.
What more can be said. Welcome to the parent's greatest fear.

"Have your say" seems like a good idea. Maybe I should extend the Blog to allow readers to comment.....

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