What should we do with paedophiles?

When I first heard the reports that Rolf Harris has been questioned by police over historical allegations of sexual offences I could hardly believe it. Rolf was one of my favourite entertainers and I had watched his various TV programs for years and laughed along with others at his “Jake the Peg” and other funny songs.

Surely there must be a mistake. Have I been deceived all these years? Did this guy, the guy who cared for sick animals, the cartoon guy, and the guy we have watched and loved for many years really trick us?

I used to love it when Rolf picked up his wide paint brushes and would throw paint onto a large canvass and tease the audience with his catchphrase, “Can you see what it is yet?”

Rolf’s life was also a big canvass and for many years his abuse of children was part of that big canvass but we couldn’t see him for what he truly was an evil paedophile.

Well, Rolf, we can now see exactly what it is and we know you for what you are and even though one day you may be released you will never be forgiven and the esteem you once enjoyed has been replaced with contempt and loathing.

If Rolf Harris could fool so many people for so long is it any wonder that his victims were reluctant to speak up. Who would be the first to point a finger at somebody so popular and powerful? I don’t know the particulars of what Rolf Harris did and neither do I want to. He has been convicted in a Court of Law and that’s good enough for me. I do know as a former Detective Sergeant who has investigated paedophiles that the physical abuse of children although sinful in its own right often palls when compared to the emotional abuse which often takes a whole lot longer to heal than physical injuries.  Sometimes the emotional pain never heals and victims live their whole life under a shadow of painful emotions.

I hated to investigate allegations of abuse on children and interviewing paedophiles. You see, hear and learn things about the depravity of some people you really wish you didn’t know. Your heart is breaking when you hear the accounts of abuse and because as an investigator you are looking for evidence you need to dig beneath the victim’s recollection. You have to ask questions, questions which often evoke painful memories and emotions and you know that asking for clarification or more detail is hurting the very person you are trying to protect.

Crime and criminals will always exist and the Police and the Courts will continue to arrest and prosecute offenders. I, however, don’t think paedophiles should be considered among other criminals, I believe that paedophiles are evil and treating them as criminals doesn’t work. Every paedophile I have ever dealt with has had a history of child abuse. If imprisonment or other punishment isn’t going to stop them further abusing children then we must look beyond conventional punishments.

If a thief reoffends there is going to a financial loss to somebody, but its only money and money can be replaced. If a paedophile reoffends another young life is devastated and I don’t think that as a society we should expose our children to the possibility of abuse by paedophiles.

If the Criminal Justice System isn’t working then do we need to re-examine how we deal with paedophiles?

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