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Last Updated: Monday, 22 November, 2004, 16:41 GMT
'Make friends with a paedophile'
Changes are to be made in the way paedophiles are dealt with in Scotland but despite public pressure, communities will not be told when an offender is released from jail and moves in locally.

Professor David Wilson, an expert on paedophiles, based at the University of Central England, agrees with this approach.

I think the Scottish Executive is doing absolutely everything it could possibly do. I'm particularly pleased to see that they are considering an end to the automatic early release for all prisoners convicted of sex offences.

Stuart Leggate
Stuart Leggate, who abused and murdered Mark Cummings
I've done a considerable amount of research with released paedophiles in England and North America where of course they have 'Megan's Law' and in Canada where they have 'Christopher's Law'.

Indeed I've interviewed the parents of Christopher Stevenson in whose memory 'Christopher's Law' is named and I would suggest that none of those laws particularly stops paedophiles reabusing children on release.

In fact it causes greater community problems by having people inappropriately take the law into their own hands which drives paedophiles further underground and moves a paedophile from one place to another, which indeed was the case with Stuart Leggate.

One of the things that I as a criminologist feel I have a responsibility about is not just to poo-poo ideas as they come up but to suggest things that might work instead.

The one thing that can absolutely demonstrate that it is successful in stopping released paedophiles reabusing is a Canadian scheme called 'Circles of Support and Accountability' which started in Hamilton, Ontario, 11 years ago and has reduced the predicted rate of reoffending by released paedophiles by over 70%.

In effect it's counter-intuitive. Instead of driving the paedophile out of the community, you support the paedophile in your community.

On a Monday it's your turn, on Tuesday it's someone else's turn, on Wednesday it's my turn and so forth.

Every day somebody will make contact with the released paedophile, speak to him, have coffee with him, ensure that he is going to job interviews, ensure he is taking his medication, whatever it might be.

On the seventh day, everybody will get together and celebrate a life without further abusing children and it's phenomenally successful.

Pilot schemes

I've made a programme, it goes out on Wednesday on BBC 4 called 'No More Victims' which obviously means no more victims of child abuse.

It is already being piloted in various initiatives in the Thames Valley and I see no reason why it couldn't be piloted in Scotland as well.

It's a phenomenally successful way of making communities safer, of harnessing the communities' willingness to do something to prevent further children being abused.

Some of your views on the subject:

I have recently been convicted of downloading images from the internet. My wife has started a campaign of selling her story to whatever publication is interested and I have had to move twice as a result of this. This scheme would be perfect in the treatment of people like me and those who have actually physically abused children. I spend every day paying for my actions - it was abuse by proxy. I pray that the Daily Mail mentality of a lot of people ends and they start to realise that these offences do need to be treated and the offenders are more likely to become a danger if ostracised.
Anon, UK

I don't think these people have ANY sort of rights. They take away children's rights and rip their lives apart, then we are supposed to feel for them and give them support? NO WAY!!! What they do is terribly wrong and I would not let someone who touched my children get away with it. I would wish that these people are made to feel the pain and horror that they have put these children through. and I think turning them into eunuchs is not a bad idea.
Lorna, Canada

Research has shown that in most cases castration does not reduce the urge of sex offenders to reoffend as the problem is in the mind and not in the genitals. Clearly Megan's/Christopher's/Sarah's Law-type legislation isn't working either. So why not be open-minded and at least consider a pilot of the Canadian approach? While I completely understand the repugnance felt by parents at the idea of befriending someone who may want to hurt their children, I would urge them to think with their heads rather than their hearts. That which feels right does not always work best. A 70% reduction is better than none at all.
Lol, UK

I think that all these do-gooders that wish to release these animals back to re-offend, should put their own lives up as a guarantee for their good behavior. If he/she re-offends then the guarantor should get the same punishment as the re-offending criminal or let them go live with the do-gooders. I think that if someone wishes to put themselves outside of society by committing such a vicious act then they should lose all rights to be treated as a part of that society. Why is it that whenever these paedophiles get arrested it is never their fault, it is because of their parents, they were poor victims themselves etc. but not all victims of paedophilia turn around and offend themselves. It comes down to them choosing to do it or not. Let them live with what they choose to do and protect the innocent. Keep them in jail or castrate them.
Chris, Canada

I used to be all for a "second chance" approach. But, having been up till some ungodly hour this very morning helping a friend come to terms with the mess that some of these charming individuals have left in his life, having heard some horrific detail and knowing that I have even more to look forward to, my preferred solution now lies well outside the law. Realistically, I think we need to either decide that they are criminals and lock them up in prison for life, or decide that they are mentally ill and lock them up in a secure hospital for life. Let's call a spade a spade, and stop this namby-pamby politically correct nonsense.
"Dave", Namibia

I think society must share the blame for this terrible situation. I remember watching the extremely disturbing documentary on the life of Robert Black who abducted and murdered up to 11 children in the UK. He started his downward spiral, as so many if not all of these individuals do, on pornography which eventually wasn't enough. It was a step-by-step process from there that eventually led him to the abyss. In the media today we are bombarded with sexually explicit imagery from newspapers on the forecourt of the garage to children's music TV shows on Saturday mornings becoming almost soft porn and that's only what the children have to face. Drug addiction occurs by experimenting with drugs. This perversion and literal addiction isn't any different. We desperately need individuals with the moral backbone of Mary Whitehouse in this sad age.
Allan Cowie, Scotland

Paedophiles are extremely manipulative and devious. I am talking from experience here. My abuser got away with it for years and when it all came to light, he ran away and tried to kill himself to avoid prison. Don't have any pity for these evil monsters. They deserve punishment for their crimes. To have your childhood taken away from you is something you never recover from. And now these bloody do-gooders are asking this! It took over 12 months for me to even get an appointment to see a counsellor. Yet again, more priority goes to the guilty!
Bryan, UK

That is ridiculous; you make a group of friends be his friend, the way the real world is, but they are not from the real world, they are from the disturbed side of human nature and hence have not one friend of their own whom they may not nurture for devious means. This may work in the short term with committed individuals ensuring that the paedophile is behaving themselves and enjoying their life. Long term this group will disappear and he or she will be left hanging in the same void. The only solution is chemical sterilisation.
JJ Huthwaite, London, UK

I totally agree something does need to be done, but do these people actually want to stop abusing? This is not an illness which can be treated with a bottle of pills, it is in their nature to want to abuse children even when they know its wrong. If they are serious about wanting to stop why do they not get themselves surgically castrated? Would it not be better to try and stop these people before they start? If a child is placed in care because of abuse surely it would be a good idea to make sure they don't grow up to be the next generation of abusers?
Jill, Scotland

I have a six-year old daughter and would never knowingly befriend a paedophile or allow that person anywhere near my child. Here in Scotland, Stuart Leggate befriended a family only to kill their eight-year-old son and dump his body down a rubbish chute. He had been "rehabilitated" back into society. Paedophiles are not inhuman, but they have severe problems that must be dealt with, one way or another, before they can take a place back in society. I agree, paedophiles probably do despise themselves, but by carrying out their actions they show they cannot resist their urges that they know to be wrong. Until an offender can there is no place in society for them. I don't agree with the mob, but be aware that the instinct to protect your children is one of the strongest. I certainly don't agree with the release of paedophiles without 24-hour supervision and I imagine most people, like myself, would want nothing to do with them. This is mainly due to the fact that all of these initiatives show more concern for the perpetrators, rather than the victims, who are either murdered or scarred for life. Let's not forget them.
Neil, Scotland

I'm sorry but I have no sympathy for these people. At the rate we are going these people will be better looked after than the people who were victimised. This cannot be right, but what can you expect from a Labour Party that has gone PC mad and from Cathy Jamieson in particular?
George Harcus, Montrose, Scotland.

I am so sorry for this man! He kills a child deliberately, gets only a minimum 20 years and then I am supposed to befriend him when he comes out. He should never come out, that is the only justice for him and do not endanger other kids just because we want to be Christian and modern or whatever hair-brained scheme will be spouted. Lock him up and throw the key away. If I see him near my kids I will take him out.
Simon Evans, Germany

I agree that this approach could help to give individuals a sense of belonging to a community and therefore lead to a them behaving in an acceptable way within that community. However, as a parent, what a difficult task it would be for me to overcome my prejudice and befriend a paedophile. I am not sure I could offer unconditional friendship.
Chris, UK

Surprise, surprise. Yet more "let's help the bad guy" instead of actually focusing on protecting the good. Here's a guaranteed method of 100% preventing repeat offences by convicted paedophiles - lethal injection. All the "this scheme reduces it by 70%" stuff ignores the main issue here - that still leaves 30% who DO reoffend and yet more children with their lives ruined or taken from them. What about their rights? In my view, in a civilised society, if you choose (let's not kid ourselves that these people don't have a choice) to take away someone's right not to be abused or killed, that should remove your "right" to expect to be treated with kid gloves. Let's start focusing on those who cannot protect themselves instead of trying to rehabilitate those who most studies show simply cannot be. If they choose that path, let them know what their fate will be.
David Elders, Great Britain

Would that victims get as much attention! These people know what they do is wrong - it's that simple. To answer the question on the website, no I would not befriend a paedophile - let the professionals do this, they maybe could see through the manipulation of which these people are so adept.
Margaret Cooper, Scotland

Thankfully I am not the mother of a child who has suffered at the hands of a paedophile but mob rule and a sense of retribution are not the answer. The dreadful men who perpetrate most of these crimes need to be given support to stop them re-offending. The main problem I can see though is that many are already on the margins of society so if they are being re-homed, it is likely to be in an already disadvantaged area and not in the safer middle-class areas where they may be less of a threat.
Eva McDiarmid, Scotland

So we should "make friends with a paedophile" to help them fit back into society. What about the victims and their families ? What about their rights , these victims were never given a FIRST chance. I suppose we will be asked to make friends with a drug dealer, murderer, etc next. When will the do-gooders stop pitying these scumbags and worry about protecting the innocents especially those who are abused by re-offenders, who were supposedly cured and ready to re-enter society?
Ian McFarlane, Scotland

At last! A sensible and compassionate approach to dealing with this terrible problem which is almost always the result of the abuser themselves being abused in childhood. Only when we stop seeing crime as a "them" and "us" situation and realise that as a community we all have responsibility for crimes against children and indeed everyone, will we really be able to tackle these problems. Time and time again we have seen that hatred and exclusion does not work and instead increases the criminals self-loathing and therefore need to offend and yet we as a community stand by and do nothing. The wish for a "Megan's law" situation in this country merely highlights the increasingly popular but useless "not in my backyard" mentality of the public. I sincerely hope that this scheme is adopted in Britain and would happily befriend a lost soul if it helped them stay on the straight and narrow and recover from their past sufficiently that they no longer need to prey on the vulnerable to survive emotionally.
Beccy, UK

My husband is currently incarcerated and when he is released he will have to register under Megan's Law. I can only pray for someone as compassionate as you and for things to change in my area. Thank you for your email it is very encouraging.
Colleen Massaro, USA

At least some countries are actually tackling the issue sensibly, instead of constant media sensationalism and government agencies wringing their hands saying: "How could this come to pass?" The message is clear, once more: if you are tolerant and try to include people, they become part of society by definition and they have support to turn to. On the other hand, if people are ostracised and deemed "inhuman" and other silly monstrous names (a crime does not diminish someone's humanity, you do not change species by your actions) paedophiles will not be able to engage and be left alone to continue the cycle of depression and the seeking solace via predation. I am not justifying or excusing actions, but the logical course is to do whatever best serves communities and lowers the chance of sex attacks taking place. Understanding and ideas to prevent such incidents from occurring are required, not people screaming that these "inhuman monsters who have given up their right to society need to be castrated/killed/hung drawn and quartered!!!!"
Steven, UK

I agree with Steven. I also think it would be far more advantageous if police, press and lawmakers in general would stop the practice of, what sociologists call, deviance amplification, i.e. deviate from the truth and amplify that deviation (sensationalise and blacken the event). It sells papers and the worse the crime looks the better the police look for catching the criminal. We could also look at a more honest approach to naming the crimes, e.g. unlawful sexual activity with a minor instead of indecent assault or even rape in the cases when no force was used. This more honest approach would have a considerable effect on the fear factor which has caused major problems in societies here and North America.
Robin , UK




SEE ALSO:
New safeguards on sex offenders
21 Nov 04 |  Scotland
New law call after boy's murder
30 Oct 04 |  Scotland
Sex murderer jailed for 20 years
18 Oct 04 |  Scotland
Man charged with schoolboy murder
28 Jun 04 |  Scotland


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