Trevor Mendham

UK Civil Liberties - New Labour's Record

Sexual Offences Bill

The Sexual Offences Bill (SOB) contains many good things. Unfortunately, under the laudable aim of protecting children, it goes too far.

SOB defines a specific offence of "grooming" - befriending children with intent to abuse. The problem is that word intent. A sex offender order with all that entails could be issued against anyone friendly with children, even if they have not committed any offence. They will be prosecuted not for what they have done but for what they might do.

Remember the paedophile witch-hunts instigated by the tabloid press a few years ago? Many innocent people were wrongly accused. Had SOB been law, some of those innocent people would probably have been declared legallly guilty.

With a law as woolly as this it is unavoidable that some innocent people will be treated as sexual offenders. Still others will be scared away from perfectly normal and innocent contact with children.

When we start locking people up for what we think they might do, we're getting dangerously close to "thought crime".

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