It’s not just writers objecting to the draconian and wrong-minded Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). I am too, and I want you to look at this from both a human rights and natural justice perspective. If the objective is child protection, we already have the tools needed to do that, from social services to the CRB through to the probation service and the police. Baby Peter, famously murdered by his mother’s boyfriend and their lodger, was failed not because there weren’t systems to protect him, but because those tasked with his care were incompetent. His abusers were known to the authorities, they were just assumed not to have been abusing him (despite bountiful evidence to the contrary). The Independent Safeguarding Authority is asserting itself as an extra-legal government agency which assumes everyone is a dangerous paedophile, universally dangerous, unless they can prove they are not.
Deborah Orr says of Ian Huntley, whose murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells led to the formation of the ISA:
Ian Huntley got into his vile little niche because allegations from various sources, one of indecent assault, four of underage sex, three of rape, and a burglary charge, had been disregarded or trivialised. The headmaster of Soham Village College says that even knowledge of the burglary investigation would have persuaded him to turn down Huntley’s application, because part of his job was maintaining the security of the building. (Against government guidelines, he hadn’t even checked Huntley’s references, while the private company that did the police check treated it as a formality.) The truth is that had so many other necessary changes not have already been made since the murders, even Huntley would now get his £64 certificate of worthiness. Paedophiles, of course, are the only people who will really, really want to have them.
It’s a very simple argument really, which even someone as intolerant as Orr can understand: assuming everyone is a paedophile unless (and even if) they prove otherwise is destructive to the social fabric, lumps people together who are not dangers to children alongside people who are (thus making the latter group much more difficult to uncover and track), and doesn’t provide any protection to children who genuinely are in danger of abuse. The ISA is unnecessary, mean-spirited, misguided and won’t work. But that’s New Labour’s approach to everything – if you can’t make a public service work, just create a whole new tier of surveillance and bureaucracy and trumpet that as a solution. They’re trying it with internet traffic, they’re going to try again to crack it with ID cards, and this, as with those other pet projects, will breach human rights law and natural justice. Say you’re an ex-offender, and you’ve been punished by the judicial system as necessary – bang goes your human right to work in whichever sector they choose, and on their whim (vulnerable groups are simply everywhere), not on any grounds of law or justice. Innocent until proven guilty? The government gave up some years ago on that outdated concept, and they now have an agency to implement their philosophy.
It must be abolished at all costs.