Friday, 12 June 2009

Why do we need social restraints?

A nursery worker has appeared in court today (11th June) charged with a series of sexual assaults on children. She worked at the nursery for three years. When she was driven away from court in a police vehicle, there were angry scenes and two arrests were made. It may be that she is guilty. It may be that the crowd outside court have a right to be angry. I don't know. What I do know is that the system of checks on people working with children does not stop arrests being made. It makes me think about the use of such checks.

In 2002 Ian Huntley killed two young girls. He had no connection with their school. He was a caretaker in a secondary school and the two girls went to a primary school. However the Bichard Inquiry that followed this crime suggested that a national register would be helpful. This may be useful move that restricts criminal activity but it would not have stopped Ian Huntley. The murders were nothing to do with his work. Today it did not stop the nursery worker being charged with sexual assaults.

We have to decide how many controls we want to put into place. There is an oft-repeated phrase 'if you have done nothing wrong then you have nothing to fear'. There is a cost finacially in all restrictions of civil liberties, whether it is police checks by computer or by police officer, the use of CCTV or sophisticated alarms, or any other deterrent to criminal activity. There is also a social cost. Am I poor parent because I don't live in a gated community? If you are not sure how this can lead to social pressure then it may be worth reading 1984 by George Orwell or Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

There is no definite answer to the amount of restraints that we use as a society. Guns and knives may serve a very useful non-violent purpose, but I would like to see a move away from an American culture of increasing violence and intolerance. There is a much more important inquiry - how to reduce the need for restraints on society.

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