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Friday, April 27, 2007 

Scum-watch: If in doubt, turn the emotion up to 11.

After a couple of weeks of silence over the faltering Sun campaign to introduce Sarah's law, the paper's decided to turn the emotion and sympathy factor up to 11. It today interviews the parents' of the girl abducted and raped by Craig Sweeney, who was last year at the centre of the Scum's outrage at "soft" judges, after he was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 5 years. Their bilious response, which John Reid responded to like a dog to a whistle, most likely directly led to the attorney general not increasing Sweeney's sentence. In fact, this isn't the first time the parents of "J" have talked to the Sun about their plight; they did so back in February as well.

ANGELA fights back a torrent of tears as she places two photographs of her precious daughter side by side.

The first, taken in 2005, is a cameo of childhood innocence — sparkling blue eyes looking out from a beautiful, beaming face.

The second, taken a year later, is a terrible testament to the horrific ordeal suffered by the youngster — referred to here as “J” to protect her identity.

Her smile has been replaced by a haunted grimace and dark circles sit under her eyes.

Angela says: “I wish the world could see these pictures so people could understand how this monster devastated our little girl’s life.

“People have said her experience was not dissimilar to that of Sarah Payne, Holly Wells or Jessica Chapman — but because J survived she seems to be forgotten.”

Well, no, she hasn't been forgotten, mainly because the Sun especially has felt the need to keep reminding us that Sweeney was personally found with the blood of J on his hands. It clearly was a horrific case, and one for which Sweeney shouldn't and I would assume won't be released as a result for a very long time, despite his minimum tariff. Why keep reminding both yourselves and your daughter herself of the tragedy though? The very thing that will help J to recover from this experience is to deal with it and then move on - you can be angry about it, you can want to change the law, as they seem to want to, but it's not going to change what's happened, and it's not going to help her recover unless they themselves are prepared to consider that bringing it up constantly is anathema to trying to forget, even if you are highlighting the seeming individual mistakes and errors which have occurred.

Angela, 35, is referring to J’s abduction by convicted paedophile Craig Sweeney.

He snatched the tot, then aged three, from her home on January 2 last year and drove her 12 miles to his bail hostel in Newport. He then sexually assaulted her before driving east down the M4 and attacking her again in a lay-by near Swindon then again in the town.

He eventually lost control of the car on the A4 nearly 90 miles from J’s home during a high-speed chase with police. She was thrown from the vehicle just before it overturned and plunged down an embankment.

It's worth wondering then, considering that Sweeney was living 12 miles away, whether the family would have been informed about his release under the proposed Sarah's law that the Sun is campaigning for. On the basis of the Sun's own questionnaire, which it used to try to canvass support for Sarah's law, seeing as J was yet to go to school and Sweeney wasn't living next door or in the immediate surroundings of where they lived, he wouldn't have been known to them. Even if an exact replica of Megan's law were to be introduced, her parents would have either have had to hear the news that Sweeney was back in the area through word of mouth, an article in the local paper or searching on the internet itself. This is of course all being wise after the fact: it's simply impossible to know whether a version of Megan's law would have stopped Sweeney from snatching J.

Angela recalls the fateful winter evening which ended normal family life.

She says: “I’d known Sweeney since he was a lad. He used to do odd jobs for us and I hadn’t seen him for years, but this night he knocked on the door and said he was calling on old friends.

“We now know he had been in prison for child sex offences — but then I had no idea what sort of person he really was.

Which suggests that Sweeney's actions were premeditated, targeting those he'd known while young that wouldn't suspect anything. It also makes it likely, seeing as they weren't aware of his convictions, which would have almost certainly appeared in the local press, that they wouldn't have known any different if a form of Sarah's law had been enshrined in law, unless the details had been plastered everywhere, something that even the Home Office doesn't seem to be in favour of.

Angela and her partner James, 36, a self-employed businessman, dialled 999, giving police Sweeney’s name and car details.

A simple touch of a computer key should have flagged up his serious sex offender status.

But the couple later learned a detective misspelled “Sweeney”, rendering the checks useless.

A simple police mistake then tragically delayed the response. There's not much we can do about human error.

Failings in the police investigation were admitted last week after a long battle by J’s parents.

A superintendent and an inspector from South Wales Police were formally reprimanded.

It goes on, describing the disturbed state of J now, and the failings to even get her into treatment. It seems she might benefit from seeing a child psychiatrist rather than a counsellor, at least at first, which could be reasonably quickly arranged if they went to her GP, but whether they've tried to do so or not is unclear.

James says: “Critics say it would send paedophiles underground but probation services aren’t monitoring them properly at the moment anyway.

“Because Sweeney was loosely known to us we would undoubtedly have been made aware of his previous convictions for child abuse long before he got to J.

“If nothing else, Sarah’s Law would make offenders think twice about what they are about to do.”

That seems doubtful; someone who's as prepared and as blatant as Sweeney was is always going to be difficult to stop, with a law such as Sarah's or not.

As is usual with such articles on the Sun, we're then treated to perfect examples of what might well happen to alleged paedophiles if a law like that the Sun is campaigning for is introduced:

If that evil piece of **** ever gets out of prison, I hope you raise a fund to pay for a mercinary/bounty hunter/anyone to kill him, But do it slowly so that he dies slowly and in the worst pain Imaginable, Sweeney is a danger who cant be corrected and there is no point keeping him in jail for ever, so the best option is to put him to death, But inflict pain doing it so that he has some Idea of the pain he has caused to his victims, An innocent child and her family.

Castration using 2 house bricks then a lobotomy before locking this ******* up for life is still too lenient.

Why not go the whole hog and gouge his eyes out, sew his testicles into the sockets and tattoo "NONCE" on his forehead?

Or invent a collar that electrocutes there bits as soon as they get aroused that will show em.

Mongrels like this should be left to rot in a very deep hole somewhere! The critics who oppose Sarah's law (god rest her wee soul & that of Holly & Jessica) make me wonder why they oppose it, their excuse is that it'll drive those amoeba's underground?

Could it not be the case that they're against it more for their own interests?

Obviously. There's a five-year-old boy fellating me as I type this. The same reason is undoubtedly why Barnardo's and the NSPCC oppose Sarah's law as well.
Microchip them and put mc readers on sale (10+ meters reach). That way every parent who wants to know will be able to find out where the danger is.
this man should be locked away in a cell all to himself and the government should let each one the little girls family members take it in turn to show him PAIN

Don't know how anyone cud hav done this to a 3 year old girl sick ****.. If he does get out everyone should remember his face then teach him a lesson if they see him n i dont just mean beat him up.. i mean really abuse the **** n see how he likes it then kill him after wards its wat he deserves and if the law wont do it someone else should..

I wouldn't have any objection to Sarah's law if it had been objectively shown that it helps to protect children; as it is, all the evidence from America suggests that it further encourages vigilantism, puts children at more risk as less sex offenders comply with their probation restrictions as a result, and potentially puts the innocent at risk through the potential to be misidentified. We've recently learned that the investigations behind Operation Ore have been allegedly fatally flawed, with potentially hundreds of men the victims of miscarriages of justice. These are the same people that would find themselves named and shamed as a result of their convictions, further ruining their lives. To the Sun readers' who write such detailed descriptions of exactly what they'd do to a paedophile if they ever had one in a locked room, and indeed the editor herself, who has never shown any concern over what happened as a result of her previous naming and shaming escapade, it seems that this would be of little concern.

Elsewhere, the Scum willfully decides to mislead the public of the true level of crime:

Robberies are UP. Vandalism is UP. Drug offences are UP.

But if you believe police records, the crime rate is DOWN.

Reported offences have fallen over the last three months, with 4,000 fewer acts of violence.

The figures have been welcomed by ministers.

Interestingly, they usually prefer the British Crime Survey of householders which gives a softer impression of criminal activity.

But the latest poll shows levels of violence unchanged — while vandalism is up by 11 per cent.

The survey also reveals the chances of becoming a victim of crime have risen.

Yes, by a whopping 1% (PDF), which was the same percentage chance as the previous quarter of the year. The Sun decides not to bother to mention that the chance of being a victim of crime as recorded by the BCS is still at a historic low: it was 40% in 1995, now it's 24%. Gun crime, one of the issues that the Sun doesn't waste an opportunity to launch a moral panic about, was also shown to have dropped by 16% over the year, a decrease of 1,761 offences, to 9,513.

Next, let's undermine both the police and BCS figures purely because it fits the Sun's tough on crime agenda:

So who do you believe?

The answer is neither.

The British Crime Survey is flawed because it excludes murder, sex attacks and crimes against shops.

This is plain bullshit. It excludes murder and sex attacks for the simple reason that they're rare, and are better recorded as a result by the police themselves, while crimes against shops are not crimes against the person, as personal experience of crime is what the whole methodology of the BCS is based on.

As for police records, thousands of punters no longer bother to report muggings or assaults.

They rarely result in a charge, still less a courtroom conviction.

Punters? Surely citizens? As for not reporting them, shouldn't the Sun be urging the public to do so regardless so that we do get a true picture of crime in the country?

So if your impression is that crime is rising, you are probably right

Which goes some way to explaining why faith in the criminal justice system is shown by the BCS to be declining. Ministers say it needs re-balancing, the tabloids scream that the judges are soft, those working within it become demoralised, and so we have a self-fulfilling prophecy. All in a day's work.

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