Susan Hill

A story the press should not encourage

A story the press should not encourage
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When I saw bewildered little Alfie Patten holding his baby I wanted to weep. Though, the 15 –going on- 35 year old mother was winding her daughter with all the casual expertise of a girl in the driving seat of the entire situation.

You wonder who to blame first. Not the two kids involved. Sex is in their faces all day –cheap magazines, tabloids, television, the internet – oh, and compulsory sex education from Year 1. They can hardly avoid knowing exactly how to do it -and why in God’s name does a 12 year old boy who looks 8 know where to get, let alone how to use, a condom ? 

The State will pick up the tab, of course, and social services will descend in such numbers we need not worry about the baby being safe.

But if the sight of little Alfie made me cry, his father who made me incandescent, demanding a shed-load of money for the story. OK, he wishes the baby hadn`t happened but hey, it has, so let’s cash in. Then Alfie’s mother follows suit.  So is this where the buck stops  – with people who would sell their own children, as Karen Matthews tried to sell poor Shannon ?

Oh no. The buck moves up one. Alfie’s story will be bought and spread across the gutter-press because it is ‘in the public interest,’ and then guess what? Children of eleven will be pushed into having sex by families hoping they`ll have a baby and so, a story to sell. But if the gutter press had any conscience, sense of public duty or morality they would not buy such stories, not now, not ever and they would say so, loud and clear.

Years ago, a murder victim’s daughter wrote in distress to the Queen complaining that newspapers were paying for the murderer’s story. The Queen replied with unusual forthrightness, saying that she, too, deplored ‘cheque-book journalism.’ 

Well I wish she would say it again now, to the papers falling over themselves to buy Alfie’s story. She’s about the only person to whom they might listen.