Public shaming the best way to handle p-edophiles?

Don Wormald writes: Re. “The ethics of permanent public shaming of s-x offenders” (yesterday). I can’t let Neil Watts’ article today to go without comment.

A decade or so ago I was asked to help advise and assist a senior NSW politician examining prospective changes to laws dealing with serial s-x offenders. This was a doomed attempt to introduce a NSW version of the US Megan’s Law coupled with (voluntary) chemical castration of p-edophiles.

Being a civil libertarian by inclination I was horrified at both proposals — until I did some research. This opened my eyes and changed my stance — although I remain conflicted.

In today’s piece Neil Watts doesn’t draw distinctions between different types of s-x offenders. I generally agree with his comments regarding young and opportunistic s-x offenders but it is the class of offenders described as p-edophiles that are the big worry.

In the course of my research my psychiatrist nephew (himself well experienced in the field) arranged for me (and the politician) to speak to several of the most experienced psychiatrists in the field. These conversations were disturbing to say the least.

I will preface my comments by noting these people are extremely well educated and would best be generally be described as civil libertarian. Just not on this issue.

All these professionals talked of the extremely high recidivism rates amongst p-edophiles. The majority of these offenders had committed many hundreds of offences before finally being caught. The vast majority committed many further s-xual offences against youg victims after their release. Their main concern was how to protect the community against offenders who they knew were going to re-offend.

I agree in a perfect world “naming and shaming” offenders is just plain wrong. However, in the world of p-edophilia you have to ask yourself whether the rights of the offenders outweigh the rights of the mums, dads and especially the kids on whom they prey? Do the families in the areas p-edophiles reside not have the right to know so that they can be aware of a potential risk?

The logic in me says every offender deserves the chance to rehabilitate without undue attention but the dad in me says “I would want to know if there is a p-edohile nearby so I can better supervise my children”. This is not just a theoretical issue; when my own children were young my next door neighbour used to give them sweets until a journalist told me he had been convicted of a s-xual offence against a child suffering from cerebral palsy.

I did not take any action against my neighbour but I made damned sure my kids knew to stay away from him.

Joe Boswell writes: Neil Watt made some very good arguments about initiatives like the new WA website that is supposed to identify s-x offenders. There’s another argument to consider: if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. So, although Watt gives persuasive reasons for doubt, let’s for a moment assume it is good for the general public to be able readily to identify such people, and maybe other criminals too.

A website is far less effective and much more complicated than conspicuously branding or mutilating the offenders. The medieval approach is proven, quick, cheap and completely reliable. Once done it requires no further input or maintenance and it is permanent. So why, if the WA government believes in what it is doing, is it doing something comparatively useless?

As Watt put it, “Showmanship it is — but community protection it ain’t.”

King Rupert

John Richardson writes: Re. “Rupert, on his LA throne, banishes dissenters from his kingdom” (yesterday). Basking in the reflected glory of the “Sun King” at the News Corporation AGM, Paul Barry could have done worse than to quote from the lyrics of the Johnny cash hit Hurt:

“I wear this crown of shit
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stain of time
the feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here.”

We actually don’t need Shakespeare to remind us that we’re all candles flickering briefly in life’s timeless breeze and that the worms will take Rupert, just as they will all of us.

Politics today no different to yesterday

Richard Barlow writes: For some reason Grant Corderoy (comments, yesterday) believes that we deserve better politicians than this “collectively immature rabble”. I don’t think the grubby nature of our national discourse is anything new, look back through Hansard. We have always liked a bit of political action, verbal and otherwise. Remember , politics is about the power and the passion!

Peter Fray

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