There have been, in recent times, a greater level of concern expressed over the number of fake accusations regarding alleged sex offences and the number of people either being charged and subsequently convicted or charged and found not guilty. Equal concern is being expressed over those convictions since the numbers of people now either in prison or released from prison and still carrying unfair convictions is rising.
Home Secretary Priti Patel's recent announcements on law and order are generally welcomed but also have a hidden danger; that of increasing pressure on the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to get convictions at any cost.
The UK has been down this road, which is why there have already been a large number of unsafe convictions. The Carl Beech affair may however, be a turning point. But only may be. So entrenched now has become the ease with which a finger can be pointed and an allegation believed, it will take some time - and a lot of courage on the part of politicians - to swing the balance back towards the truth.
Ask yourself a question; which countries are the most closely linked, in terms of culture, general way of life, language and a multitude of other facets of day-to-day existence? The answer is the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. As an example of the now long-standing 'potential sex-offender' idea, have a look this article from the The New Zealand Herald. And check out the date...
Airline policy on men goes to human rights tribunal.
28 Jun, 2006.
An airline policy that prevents men from being seated next to unaccompanied children could pave the way for similar discriminatory policies to run rampant, says National's Wayne Mapp.
Dr Mapp yesterday laid a claim with the Human Rights Review Tribunal, saying that Qantas and Air New Zealand's seating policy breached the Human Rights Act. He said the policy discriminated against men and implied they were dangerous.
The seating policy drew criticism from the Green Party and the Human Rights Commission last year after several men were outraged at having to change seats because they were sitting next to unaccompanied children. But Dr Mapp said the policy, if not corrected, could open the door for discrimination in all aspects of life. In his written submission, he asked: If airlines could keep men from sitting next to unaccompanied children, what would stop bus and train companies or waiting rooms from doing the same?
"The airlines' decision to discriminate on the presumption of a higher crime rate leads us on very a dangerous path," the submission states. "Since Muslims are over-represented among terrorists in Western societies, all Muslims might be asked to take seats in the back of planes ... clearly such a policy would be illegal as well as immoral."
Dr Mapp acknowledged airlines were unlikely to adopt such extreme measures, but he said allowing the present policy left the door ajar. Airlines needed to protect children travellers, he said, but it could be done without discrimination, such as sitting them near cabin crew.
A spokesman for Air NZ said the airline would not be commenting until it knew the details of the claim.
Whether or not such a policy is right or not is for the individual to decide but since this article was written (thirteen years ago!) there have been, certainly in the UK, a number of proven cases in which women are shown to be the offenders. However, it also appears that other airlines have also implemented this policy:
In March 2001, it was revealed that British Airways had a policy to ban seating adult male passengers next to unaccompanied children (any person under the age of 15), even if their parents were elsewhere on the aircraft. This led to accusations that the airline considered men to be potential paedophiles and women to be incapable of such abuse.
The issue was first raised when a business executive had moved seats to be closer to two of his colleagues. A flight attendant then asked him to move because he was sitting next to two unaccompanied children which was a breach of BA company policy. The executive said he felt humiliated as a result, stating, "I felt I was being singled out and that I was being accused of something."
British Airways admitted that staff were under instructions to keep men away from unaccompanied children whenever possible because of the danger of male paedophiles. This issue came to prominence again in 2005 following complaints by Michael Kemp, who had been instructed to swap seats with his wife when on a GB Airways flight. The flight attendant informed him that it was a breach of the airline's child welfare regulations for an adult male stranger to be sitting next to a child. This case was considered more unusual because the policy was applied even though the girl's parents were on board the flight. Michele Elliott, director of the children's charity Kidscape, stated that "the rule was utterly absurd. It brands all men as potential sex offenders."
Even more remarkably, in 2006, Boris Johnson, now of course, UK Prime Minister, criticised the company after a staff member mistakenly attempted to separate him from his own children on a flight. He stated that those who create or defend such policies "fail to understand the terrible damage that is done by this system of presuming guilt in the entire male population just because of the tendencies of a tiny minority", linking such discrimination to the reduced number of male teachers and therefore lower achievement in schools.
Like others, Johnson also raised the policy's flaw in ignoring female abusers and branded airlines with such policies as "cowardly" for giving in to "loony hysteria."
As well as Air New Zealand, Qantas and Virgin Australia have also been criticised for similar policies - there is something a little ironic about the last airline's name (and its origins) in matters such as these.
Although the pendulum has swung more towards commonsense solutions for unaccompanied minors on flights, it must be pointed out that such offences have occurred. As peculiar as that is (who in their right mind who do such a thing and in such a confined and public place?) it is still incredibly rare.
It also raises the question of where such practices might stop; will men be banned from sitting next to children on a bus or train? In a cinema? And what would be the response if such a ban was applied to Muslims?
If the Home Secretary really means what she says, perhaps she should speak to her Prime Minister and then temper her desire to convict real criminals with an equal desire to see a return to sensible policies that do not discriminate. Against anybody.
Otherwise we continue to sleepwalk into a society where everybody is guilty of something and freedom is a distant memory.
The threat to freedom is a continuing thread throughout Kevan James' book, 'Comments of a Common Man Edition 3'
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