Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Paedophilia - A Confession

I am a potential paedophile; a sex offender. The time has come to tell my shocking tale.
Some years ago, walking with friends in a city park, I felt the need to answer the call of nature. However, the public toilets were closed owing to vandalism. In acute discomfort, I relieved myself discreetly in nearby bushes.
This could have have placed me on a perverts sex list had my crime been witnessed and I had been cautioned for indecent exposure. This could in turn have prevented me from working as a teacher, a social worker, a janitor, a care home assistant or a nursery nurse.
Not only that. If I were a plumber working on pipes in a school I could - if organisations like the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations had their way - be exposed or even prosecuted for failing to disclose that I was a sex offender. If I even drove a supermarket delivery van through the school gates I could be committing an offence.
So far, as a mere jobbing hack, my potential paedophilia has not been seen as a threat. However, it can surely be only a matter of time before I am fingered as someone whose scribblings could potentially be read by children, thus insidiously grooming them.
In fact, isn’t this very article proof that society needs to be protected from people like me, who should be removed and placed in an offshore island for processing while the authorities decide if there are any posts which I could perform which would not be a danger to children? I'll go quietly.
You can laugh. But right now thousands of public sector workers who have committed trivial offences, or indeed no offence at all, are living in fear of their very livelihoods. Tomorrow, the Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly - under pain of losing her own job - is expected to rule that everyone on a sex offenders list in England and Wales should barred from working with children, whether they have actually committed a child sex offence or not. Doesn't matter if they've been rehabilitated, have "spent" convictions or just been the victim of ugly rumour. To be on the safe side, they would be out. There is acute pressure on Jack McConnell to follow suit in Scotland.
But, look, why take the risk? If I were a parent, wouldn’t I want to be absolutely sure that my children couldn't be taught by sex offenders? Wouldn’t I want my kiddies to be protected from pervs? Well, I am a parent, as it happens, and do I want my children to be protected. However, of the 2000 recorded sexual attacks on children last year, not one took place in school.
The vast majority of sex offences on children take place in the family home by parents relatives or by trusted friends. The lesson surely is clear: children need to be protected from their families. If we really want them to be out of the reach of paedophiles, children need to be taken from their homes and placed in secure units supervised by properly-vetted, state-registered guardians.
You think I am making light of a very serious subject, and I am. But some things are so serious the only thing you can do is laugh. The alternative would be to join the current witch hunt of paedophiles which is becoming a national psychosis. Sensible people have turned into crazy inquisitors trying to root out an imaginary conspiracy to infiltrate schools with paedophiles and pornographers.
The fact that there may be different lists of sex offenders floating around does not mean that perverts are being employed in schools, as the Scottish National Party appears to believe. If someone applies to teach in Scotland under the existing legislation, the education authority and the GTC are furnished with what is called an "enhanced disclosure". This document includes every scrap of information about the individual. Not just their presence on any official list of those disqualified from working with chldren or on a sex offender's register. Suspicions, cautions and other pieces information compiled by the police are also supplied, even if there is no charge. A body called Disclosure Scotland, was set up under the Child Protection Act precisely for this purpose.
Employers still have discretion about whether to act on all the information they receive, but not perhaps for much longer. The SNP appears to want anyone on any sex offenders list to be automatically barred from teaching or working with children. In the present febrile climate, not unlike Soviet Russia, social workers and teachers are already being subject to repeated disclosures and examinations. Professionals with years of experience in positions of trust are being hauled before sex inquisitions.
But the witch hunters are demanding even more checks, more lists. Under pressure,the Executive is planning to set up a new Central Barring Unit to act as a further gatekeeper against paedophilies. We are in danger of constructing a crazy bureaucracy to snoop and compile information on alleged perverts.
Yet even sex offenders have rights - especially when they could be on a list for trivial offences or because suspicious or vindictive colleagues. There is also something called the rehabilitation of offenders. We are in danger of saying that all sex offenders are beyond redemption.
The Scottish system is supposed to be an enlightened one, passed by cross-party agreement with the support of children's charities. Unlike in England, Scottish ministers do not rule on individual teacher appointments; responsibility is where it should be: with the employers and local authorities.
However, as a result of a bizarre blow-back from the row in England, there is now intense pressure on Jack McConnell to fix something which isn't broke; to introduce a new system which could involve ministers in the employment of teachers. The danger is that they import precisely the ministerial micromanagement which was criticised in England by none other than the Chancellor, Gordon Brown yesterday.
But the real danger isn't bureaucracy but the climate of fear. Parents are becoming fearful of sending their children to school, when school is the safest place for them. A generation of children are being sexualised. All adults are regarded as predators.
When I take my little girl to her gym class, I am told that I have to leave immediately in case I get sexual gratification from seeing young girls in states of undress. There are strip cartoons on the walls advising children what to do if a man speaks to them or if an instructor holds them in the wrong way.
But what really is happening here is that the authorities, in their zeal, are doing the grooming. They are inadvertently creating an expectation among children that adults are only interested in them as sexual objects. This is not protecting children; it is a betrayal of childhood = and it must cease.
Opposition politicians, who should know better, must jump off this sick bandwagon and stop undermining our schools and teachers. The media must stop running sensational stories of non existent epidemics of child abuse. Our children deserve better. And so do people like me who risk being labelled sex offenders for taking a P in the park.

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