19 Apr 2011

Nefarious Intent: Why Online Offender Registers are Wrong

I'm vehemently against 'Sarah's Law' as it is called in the UK. The premise is that parents can look up sex offenders and paedophiles in their neighbourhood to protect their children.

As the News of the World demonstrated very clearly in the beginning of the century, the data can be wrong. People suffer horrendously as a result.

Even when they are convicted sex offenders, many are tracked down and killed in basal style, one man stabbed to death in his caravan, another had his house set on fire.

And for some reason, in spite of this uncivilised response that runs on sensationalist headlines, the government has decided to roll out this 'law'.

Lessons Not Learned

When you consider two high profile child murders in the last decade, the application of this rule makes even less sense.

The Ian Huntley case provoked a knee jerk reaction to extend CRBs. However, Ian Huntley only had one conviction for burglary, and nothing on his record to indicate paedophillic behaviour.

Sarah Payne was killed by a paedophile with previous convictions, but she was abducted in her grandparent's area, and as a result the man convicted of her murder could not have been identified by her parents.

Therefore, the purpose of the legislation is defeated if it could not have prevented the deaths of these three girls.

Nefarious Intent

Having all that data out there, easily accessible, was bound to be used for alternative and dubious purposes soon enough.

Where the public dislike the use of data by public services for alternative purposes, they can, in theory, hold that company to account.

However, where it is a private corporation, the accountability is harder to apply.

As the Metro reports today, Match.com are now checking their online population against US sex offender registers.

The President says 'this should not create a false sense of security'. Security for whom?

Match.com cannot be prevented from accessing this data, indeed it is there for anyone to get.

Will we now see an aberition of human rights where offenders are denied credit cards, shopping deliveries, ebay accounts and more?

Where do we draw the line in persecuting those who have committed offences?

And how will any of this allow ex-offenders reintegrate into society and be rehabilitated?

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