When will Britain ever properly punish child abusers like Colin Pitchfork?

I AM always staggered that in a country like this one, where we pride ourselves in protecting the vulnerable, the one group we ­continue to fail colossally is children.

The way those who harm children are dealt with in our justice system is at the top of a very short list of things that embarrasses me about Britain.

I don’t want a child murderer and rapist like Colin Pitchfork anywhere near those I care about[/caption]

As a journalist, I get the misfortune of reporting developments in some of the most horrific cases of injustice, too many of which relate to children.

And as the mother of a young daughter, I find it hard to separate the professional from the ­personal when it comes to those stories.

As I write this, it repulses me that just this week I had to report that double child rapist and murderer Colin Pitchfork is now enjoying his first few days as a free man after being imprisoned in 1988 for his crimes.

Yes, a three-decade stint in prison is a long time. But I don’t want a man who felt so guilty about raping and murdering a 15-year-old girl, that he did the same thing three years later to someone else’s child, anywhere near those I care about.

The parole board say Pitchfork is ­“suitable” for release — I say he makes a suitable case study for why the death ­penalty often feels morally justifiable.

This week, we also saw the publication of a new report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which made for harrowing reading.

News Group Newspapers Ltd
Pitchfork makes a suitable case study for why the death ­penalty often feels morally justifiable[/caption]

It probed 38 religious organisations and settings in England and Wales and discovered there was “no doubt that the sexual abuse of children takes place”, cases of which were likely to be ­“significantly” underreported.

It went on to describe how child sex abuse victims are being let down by the “moral failing” and “blatant hypocrisy” of religious institutions.

It found that ­religious leaders were blaming children for the abuse and discouraging reporting to protect the reputations of their religious leaders and places of worship.

So many of those who exist with an explicit purpose to teach right from wrong have been perpetrating the most ­inhumane of wrongs, and sometimes using religion to justify it.

This is objectively depraved on every level. These institutions, we are told, are there to impart the highest moral ­standards on society. They are the arbiters of righteousness. Yet they seem to be going largely unchecked when it comes to their standards for protecting children.

Blank cheque

The IICSA report says that, despite these organisations having “significant or even dominant influence on the lives of millions of children”, some of them do not have the most basic safeguards in place.

Even when they do have safeguarding policies, the report says there is a “half-hearted or non-existent” implementation.

This means millions of children are being put at regular risk of perversion behind the pulpit across all major religious institutions because our leaders are too afraid to blur the lines between religion and the state.

But religious freedom and a literal “holier-than-thou” status should not be a blank cheque to do harm to children.

The sad thing is we have long known about child abuse in religious settings — the Catholic church has had its share of abuse scandals. But the scale of abuse and the chronic cover-up across all major ­religions highlighted by this report should be a wake-up call to us all.

Every time I vote for a Conservative government, I hope their “tough on crime” talk will live up to expectations, and I’m always left disappointed.

And I fear they’ll disappoint again on this front.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill making its way through Parliament makes nothing short of pathetic changes to the law when it comes to dealing with child abuse.

Those who commit sex offences will no longer be eligible to apply for early release halfway through their sentence — instead, they can walk free two thirds of the way through.

Hardly a change that will strike fear into the hearts of child sex offenders.
The Bill, if passed, will also change the law so that faith leaders will no longer be allowed to have sex with 16- and 17-year-olds in their care, despite them being over the age of consent.

These piecemeal changes do not send the zero-tolerance message, as the public wants, to those in positions of power who want to abuse children.

How many sexual abuse scandals do we need to unearth before those in charge do the right thing?

The Government seem to be capable of passing laws that make sweeping constitutional and civil liberty changes at the stroke of a pen but can’t do the same when it comes to dealing with the well established problems of child abuse in religious spaces.

If the Government wants to make criminals “literally feel terror at the thought of committing offences”, as Home Secretary Priti Patel has said, then they should start with cracking down on paedophiles in churches, mosques and synagogues.

Match maker magic

Channel 4
Married At First Sight has become our guilty pleasure[/caption]

MARRIED At First Sight – the show where couples meet for the first time at the altar – is back.

The pairs are matched “scientifically” by a panel of experts, and after getting married in front of family and friends they go on a honeymoon and move in together.

In the end, they have to decide whether they want to stay married or split.

I find it both ironic and interesting that arranged marriages are becoming increasingly glamorised.

Didn’t we “progressive” people in the West once frown on arranged marriages as backward?

People are now paying expert matchmakers fortunes to hand-pick a partner for them, and maybe there is something in it.

Endless choice in the dating market has spoilt us all, making us more picky and superficial, and it actually makes finding a partner harder.

If someone can cut out the work for you, it might not be such a bad idea.

Swede and sour

I’M going to say something that will make me deeply unpopular – I’ve never willingly listened to Abba.

And to be honest, the songs I have been forced to listen to at various points in my life are a bit naff.

The group were trending this week as they surprised fans with the news that they are releasing their first studio album in 40 years.

Voyage is set for a November release and will be followed by a “revolutionary” tour where virtual avatars of the quartet will play hits such as Mamma Mia and Waterloo.

Now, I realise they are one of the best-selling acts of all times – and around my gay friends, saying I couldn’t care less about Abba is a crime punishable by death.

But I simply don’t get “it”. I’m just about willing to pretend I’m happy for those friends who have eagerly awaited new Abba music for years and finally have their wishes granted.

But what I cannot pretend to do is to enjoy Abba music – that’s asking too much.

A load of rubbish

Hyde News & Pictures
Youngsters are quick to preach about the environment[/caption]

MILLENNIALS and Gen Zs – those born between 1980 and 2012 – are the biggest virtue signallers when it comes to the environment.

Nearly half of 18 to 24-year-olds say the environment is the biggest issue facing the country, compared to three in ten over-65s.

But it turns out that young people are also some of the biggest ­hypocrites too.

Reading Festival took place last weekend, attracting 90,000 fans, mostly youngsters.

And as a leaving gift to the owners of Little John’s Farm, where the festival is hosted, spectators left thousands of tents behind.

chris gorman / big ladder
Youngsters left Reading looking like a total tip[/caption]

The scenes can only be described as a cross between a refugee camp, a zombie apocalypse and an aviation disaster.

So much for those green credentials young people claim to uphold. Do you know what’s not so environmentally friendly?

Leaving tens of thousands of cups, straws and tents which will take centuries to decompose lying around in a natural landscape.

Most people are happy to take tips on how to go greener but excuse me if I’m reluctant to take advice from those who only seem to give a damn about the environment when they’re lecturing someone else about it.

Snogs ban so strict

Strictly’s kissing ban could deprive us of plenty of controversy[/caption]

STRICTLY bosses have reportedly banned this year’s contestants from kissing each other.

Why? To stop the spread of Covid, they say. That old chestnut.

This is both wishful thinking and commercially unwise. Many romances have been made on the show – some for worse, rather than better.

Seann Walsh, for instance, was pictured snogging partner Katya Jones, who was married to another dancer on the series. Awkward.

But some romances have blossomed – Russian stud Pasha Kovalev married contestant Rachel Riley (the clever Countdown lady) in 2019, pro dancer Gorka Marquez got engaged to Hollyoaks contestant Gemma Atkinson after they were on the 2017 series.

Then there’s Kevin Clifton, who is now in a happy relationship with dance partner Stacey Dooley (although he did break up with fellow pro dancer and wife Karen Clifton to do that).

Strictly has been more successful in match-making than Love Island, for God’s sake.

Yes, we all tune in to see which C-list celebrity is embarrassing themself in front of the nation, but also because we know the salsa comes with the occasional smooch, and the rumba comes with the occasional romp.

A Lotto misery

THE age-old question was posed again this week: Does money buy you happiness?

Sadly it was reported that Margaret Loughrey, 56, who won £27million on EuroMillions eight years ago, was found dead at home.

She had bought the ticket on the way back from the Jobcentre after living on benefits.

Some might call her the luckiest woman in the world but she said of her winnings: “Money has brought me nothing but grief. It has destroyed my life. If there is a hell, I have been in it.”

So does money make you happy? US research shows that seven in ten lottery winners end up broke and a third go on to declare bankruptcy.

So before you dream of that big win, remember that it might end up being a nightmare in hindsight.

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