James Forsyth

The government’s latest ‘child protection’ idea is positively harmful

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Alsadair Palmer neatly sums up the absurdity of the government’s new child protection plans in the Telegraph:

“Once it receives your application, the ISA will invite people to submit information about you. The ISA’s officials will be looking for any claim to the effect that you have done something which might have caused “physical, emotional, financial or developmental harm” to a child. Don’t ask for a definition of such “harm”, for there is none – the term will be interpreted in any way the Government’s assessors choose.

Those assessors will not be required to ascertain whether or not “harm” actually took place, nor whether you were in fact the cause of it. They will only have to come up with a measurement of the seriousness of the harm you might have caused: a number between one and five. Then they will have to put a number (also between one and five) on the likelihood that you’ll do something similar again. Those two numbers will then be used to determine whether it is safe to allow you to drive your child and three of his friends to that football practice.

The procedure is lunatic: it won’t, except by chance, result in accurate assessments. The Government says it is justified because it will help prevent another child killer like Ian Huntley, the murderer of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. This is blatantly false. The problem with Huntley wasn’t a failure to put him on an official list of potential paedophiles: he was on such a list. The problem was that the police force that had the information failed to pass it on to the school in Soham that hired him.”

The more one thinks about this plan to vet pretty much everyone who has contact with children other than their own, the more harmful it seems. By interfering in this way, the state is—intentionally or not—going to sever the ties that help bind communities together.