Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Follow by Example - Britain Denies Public Outcry for Public Sex Offender Registry

Terry Brown

April 29, 2007
Earlier this month the British Government announced that it has rejected public demands for “Sarah’s Law,” a body of legislation modeled after Megan’s Law in the United States, which makes the law-enforcement accessible sex offender registry available to the general public.

Lawmakers in our Motherland decided that rather than implementing knee-jerk laws, as we have seen throughout state and federal legislative bodies here in the U.S., they would take the more intelligent approach and conduct impact studies based on leading expert opinions on the issue of sexual abuse before enacting proposed bills into law. After long and careful review they decided that the experts were right and that public access to this information would not only have little impact on public safety but what impact it would have would be counterproductive and would actually increase danger to communities.

This decision speaks volumes, and Americans would do well to take heed and demand changes in U.S. laws to reverse the social time-bomb that presently exists here at home. One U.S. lawmaker said it best when he stated that the public is simply too emotional when it comes to this issue to make rational decisions with regard to such laws and that such a mentality equated to “political impotence.”1

The overwhelming factor in the British decision to keep the sex offender registry out of the public eye has been, “the fear of vigilantism and of driving sex offenders ‘underground.’” The strongest statement in this regard was, “We cannot open the sex offenders register to the vigilantes who do not understand the difference between pediatricians and pedophiles. ”

Without question the public access to the sex offender registry not only promotes vigilantism, but it also makes it nearly impossible for those on the register to find gainful employment and stable housing accommodations. This is increasingly the case with each new mechanism dreamt up by lawmakers attempting to further their political careers by profiting from this political cash cow. Recently there have been requirements introduced forcing registrants to include their place of employment as well as their on-line identifications, and such information will inherently keep employers from hiring any person on this register.

We have reached the point that people are being court-ordered to live under bridges giving a sort of macabre symbolism to the troll under the bridge, and when these people plea to the courts to put them back in prison rather than having to live such an existence the courts have effectively told them, “No, now get back under that bridge.”

There are reasons that the bedrock principles of our justice system came into existence. These bedrock principles are what made our system the best in the world. To simply throw them out the window is not only senseless, it is dangerous. The notion that the punishment must fit the crime and the notion that once a debt has been paid to society the person be allowed to resume some sense of normalcy must be restored in the United States of America or catastrophic chaos will most certainly ensue.

I encourage every American voter to pick up a pen or a telephone and communicate with your lawmakers and demand that they introduce responsible legislation that will truly work to protect our communities. We must have balance and consideration of expert opinion in our laws in order to maximize all our safety, in order to accomplish this goal we must remove emotion from the equation.

1 'Blunkett pledges to target sex offenders,' The Guardian, October 2, 2002


Anonymous Anonymous said...

An interesting note - While Britain doesn't plan to publicly register SO's except for the highest level or escapees, you must note that Britain plans to restrict the liberties of all folks by drafting a compulsary national ID linked to a national database. Britain has more surveilance cameras per square mile than any other country. Originally the ID card scheme was a national population register with registration requirements stricter than the local SO registry, but plans were scaled back. It's not that Britain is more enlightened concerning privacy, but that it doesn't need to emphasize registering and tracking SO's when it can track and register everyone.

6:20 AM  

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