Scum-watch: They're still outting "paedophiles".
Normally, this wouldn't be something to be concerned about, and the cases involved are to say the least, potentially worth exposing. The biggest concern as always is that vigilante action will be launched, not just against those have been outted, but against those whose identity may be mistaken in the heat of the moment. Nonetheless, I think the Sun is going too far in at least the second case I'm about to highlight. Others will likely vehemently disagree.
To begin with, the nom de plume of the outter is simply "the Investigator". It's quite true that I'm also anonymous, but the one thing I'm not doing is ruining people's lives for things that they have done years ago. This is exactly what the "Investigator" is doing.
The first article by the Investigator was in last Monday's Sun, with a follow-up the next day, and a leader comment, probably written by the ginger ninja herself.
A BUS driver who picks up kids from school is a convicted paedophile — whose bosses KNEW of his sordid past when he was hired.
David Skinner, 52, was jailed for 18 months for molesting little girls.
Yet he has been allowed to drive a route around Margate and Ramsgate in Kent during which queues of trusting schoolchildren clamber on his bus.
The pervert was yesterday suspended by transport giants Stagecoach following a Sun investigation. But he was working for the SAME company when he was caged for indecent assault and gross indecency.
Open and shut case then right? A convicted child molester shouldn't be working with children, full stop. However:
Balding Skinner — seen by The Sun chatting to kids — was jailed in 1992. It is understood he molested three children aged between six and nine while babysitting.
So we're going back 14 years. He was jailed for 18 months and served 9. He was given his job back, and has been doing school bus runs, but the Sun doesn't say for how long or how often he's being doing them.
And that's it. Well, apart from some hearsay evidence from a a driver source:
One driver called single Skinner “repulsive”. He added: “Some of the drivers who were around when he was convicted knew of his past and were disgusted when he was allowed back on school routes. But when it was raised they were told he would be allowed to stay.
“Drivers get to know kids from school runs and often also pick them up when they go out on the town late at night.
“They know which ones are under-age because they’ve seen them in their uniforms.
“Once, Skinner and another driver were discussing the youngsters all dressed up and he admitted it was tempting to see them like that.”
In all the time he's since been working for the various bus companies, there doesn't appear to have been anything to suggest that he shouldn't been working at all with children. It's obvious that most of those convicted of sexual offences in connection with children are immediately barred from working with them, and that advice is generally given to companies as to who should and shouldn't be doing work such as school runs, but either that wasn't given, was ignored or made clear that he didn't pose a threat, or at least in their evaluation.
The Sun suggests that the manager who cleared Skinner to work the school runs has since left the company, and Stagecoach responded to the Sun's expose by suspending Skinner.
The problem I have with this is more than over the suspension, which seems the right move, certainly from school runs at least, is that he's been doing his job quietly all those years, has seemingly moved on and reformed, and now after all this time he's had been named in a national newspaper as a paedophile for a crime committed over a decade ago. Some will argue that parents always deserve to know of any conviction of an adult working in any way with their child, and I agree that I don't think Skinner should have been doing school runs. It's just that this could have been done without subjecting him to vilification for a conviction in his past. Of course, this isn't how tabloid journalism works. There has to be a story, otherwise the time and money spent investigating is wasted. Yet it would have been far better to inform Stagecoach, make sure that Skinner no longer does school runs, and leave it at that. Instead he's had his life turned upside down. It's true that he may well have ruined the lives of those he abused, one of which the Sun quotes the following day as being terribly upset when she discovered that he was driving buses round. Does that however years later justify destroying his, not to mention potentially subjecting him to reprisals?
Today's expose is far more controversial than that of Skinner's.
Again, if he's been convicted of similar offences to Skinner then he shouldn't be working with children. The plot here though is far thicker than that of his:
But the pervert, who indecently assaulted a girl under 14, claimed: “I’m not a danger. I’ve been cleared for school runs.”
Emms was sentenced to two years’ probation at Worcester Crown Court in 1989.
We're going even further back, and while under 14 is ambiguous , it may well be that the girl was 13. In 1989 Emms would have been either 17 or 18. Going back again to Wikipedia's quoting of the diagnosis of a paedophile:
- Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).
- The person has acted on these urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
- The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.
We also don't know the circumstances surrounding the indecent assault. They may have been boyfriend and girlfriend, it could have involved anything. It has to be said that Emms doesn't help his case with the following:
He said the conviction happened when he was a teenager, adding: “Everybody was having a laugh in those days.”
Emms is now 35, is married with a wife and has his own kids, has apparently not re-offended in any way, and has been cleared by the council to drive a bus on the school run.
Is exposing him in the public interest? Perhaps, but only just. It can be argued that the parents will now tell their children to be extra-careful around the bus driver, stay together in groups and don't stay on alone, but apart from that it seems that it would have been far better to let sleeping dogs lie. What has been achieved from "outting" him, apart from scaring parents, making children afraid of adults when there is no need to be anything other than cautious (it's also worth remembering that children are much more likely to be abused by someone known to them, usually within their friends and family) and again, bringing up the distant past of a man whose circumstances were hugely different then? He is also now open to potential vigilante justice.
The debate around child protection is going to be fraught. There's always a balance to be struck, and the Sun may well have done the right thing in naming Skinner. The reason though why we now have the sex offenders' register, organisations like MAPPA and the criminal records bureau is to take the potential for both injustice and justice out of the hands of those who don't know the full facts, and who might act in ways they might later regret. The only thing I can see that might have been gained from the Sun's expose today of Emms is that it might sell a few more copies and may make the "Investigator" feel happier with his work than he would of had he been subbing. The Sun may feel justified in its work, but the balance that it's striking is one that needs to be closely monitored.
I also don't have children. If I was a parent I might feel very different. Comments, name-calling on my naivety, etc, are more than welcome.