You couldn’t make it up if you tried. By one of those tricks fate occasionally throws up we have seen two European Court of Human Rights rulings come to the fore in the past couple of weeks.
Prisoners getting the vote and those convicted of sexual offences coming off the sex offenders’ register are not matters to be treated at all lightly. Put these together with a European institution and you have a potent mix. The waters then get very muddied as Tory anti-European feelings become part of the equation.
I have blogged before about prisoners voting, and I have to say I largely agree with Justice Secretary Ken Clarke in that I have no real objection to giving the franchise to this group of people and believe that in the end most of them won’t vote.
Sex offenders present more complex problems. Protection of the public has to be the main aim of any criminal justice system, especially children and young people and other vulnerable groups. This should be at the forefront of our thinking.
I have to say I have been shocked by those who have sought to turn this into a debate on parliamentary sovereignty with seemingly very little concern for the victims of sexual crimes.
Given that this debate is about public protection, there seems to me little problem with sex offenders on the register being allowed to appeal after a reasonable length of time, perhaps 15 years as is the case in Scotland. It is, after all, only an appeal not a guarantee that the offender will come off the register, and if handled properly should reflect the offender’s likelihood of re-offending. In other words, a sex offender who is still dangerous will not be removed from the register.
In my worst moments it has seemed to me that the sex offenders issue, something which directly affects lives in the most dreadful way, has been turned into an anti-European tirade and used to attack the European Convention on Human Rights.
As many of you know I used to work for the Probation Service. I therefore know at first hand the appalling damage crimes of a sexual nature can cause. I only hope this Tory-led coalition government and Home Secretary Theresa May in particular will start to see this issue in terms of the victims, those who have suffered so much. It’s about making sure we protect the public to keep the numbers of victims as low as we possibly can, not about her and her government’s feelings on Europe.