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  1. #1
    Son of LO The_Giant_Mantis's Avatar
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    Megan's Law/Sarah's Law

    You all probably know this, but Megan's law is a colloquial term for a number of laws which exist in the US that have the effect of requiring law enforcement to make public the names and locations of sex offenders. It varies from state to state but the intention is ultimately to make parents aware of individuals who may be dangerous to their children.

    This would probably be little more than a mild curiosity to me except that the British government has recently sent an observer to America to observe the way the law is put into practice. If the observer feels the impact has been positive, the implication is that the government will start to give serious consideration to implimenting a similar legal requirement here.

    The background to this is that, since the year 2000 when a high profile case involving the abduction and murder of a girl called Sarah Payne was run very heavily through the tabloid press, some journalists and pressure groups have been campaigning heavily for such a law to be implimented. I don't have the official stats, but I'd imagine the vast majority of people in Britain would be positive towards such a law being bought in.

    So, my question.. What do you think of it all? If you're American, do you find the law comforting or helpful? If you live elsewhere, what are your more general opinions? How should it be implimented if it is bought in?

    Personally, I worry. I understand the fears of parents, although I'm not one myself so of course I can't really emphasise. But what I do remember is the other stuff which came along with the Sarah Payne murder case. In the weeks immediately after you basically had vigilante groups roaming around and abusing anyone in the community they believed was a sex offender. There was one case where a paediatrician had her house vandalised because someone couldn't tell the difference between a paediatrician and a paedophile. I also know that the newspapers leading the charge on this issue all belong to the same group, the one owned by Rupert Murdoch, who I don't believe for one second has any kind of altruistic intentions in hyping this story up.

    I also think we need to think and try and understand why a person would want to abuse a child. Not everyone who has a conviction for sexual abuse reoffends. Will it help them not to reoffend if they are treated like monsters by everyone in their community? Is that saccrifice worth it to help prevent those who will reoffend from doing so?

    I realise this kind of topic sometimes gets people heated. So please try and keep it mellow.

    Last edited by The_Giant_Mantis; June 23rd, 2006 at 16:20.

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  3. #2
    Now 17% more helpful gingerninja's Avatar
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    Interesting topic.

    If a simular set of laws were to come into effect here then, in my opinion, there would have to be a strict set of guidelines on who to tell this information too. Anyone who gained this information would have to have their details kept on file, so that if any harm came to the offender, the police would have a list of suspects.

    I am not defending paedophiles here. In fact, if I had my way anyone who harms a child on purpose, (and by that i mean little child, not a 15 year old chav who pull knives on people!!), would be locked in a hole somewhere and never breathe free air again. This is about not allowing vigilante behaviour. People should not take the law into their own hands period. If they believe the paedophile to be reoffending, tell the police and let them deal with it.

    On a sub note, I believe that in particularily disturbing cases the criminal justice system should be changed so that their parole should only be reviewed at the end of their sentance, not at the half way point, as is the case now.

    Just my opinions :ninja:
    Last edited by gingerninja; June 23rd, 2006 at 16:37.
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  4. #3
    ISIS Secret Agent Squishy mpdscott's Avatar
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    Not living in America, I can only give my opinon based on things that I have heard and read through the international media (including Oprah).
    I do applaud the premise behind the laws, and the intent of the laws; however, I keep hearing of cases that quite simply should not be affected by them. The basic idea behind one of the laws is that anyone who has sexualised contact with anyone under the age specified (varying between 15 and 18 ), is automatically placed on the Sex Offenders Registry. Good in theory, and it mostly works in practice; but what happens when two people under that particular age, for arguement's sake lets say 17, decide to have sex? They will both end up on the Registry. Does this make any sense? No it doesn't. Fair enough they have broken the law because they were both under the age, but it wasn't a case of abuse. (What you will find typically happens however, is that the boy involved will end up on the Registry, and the girl classed as a victim.)
    There have been other cases reported, where one of the couple (consentually) involved has been over the age (ie 17 years), and the other under the age by a matter of a couple of months (ie 16 years, 9 months). The person over the age, has been classified as a predator, and placed on the Registry.
    The way the laws currently stand, there is no consideration for circumstances. And this is the biggest problem. Currently there are teenagers already on the Registry who should not be; they did not abuse or harm any children, and yet, they are supposedly predators. I dread to think of what they are forced to live through, with their names and reputations so badly destroyed over an incident that was for all intents and purposes, nothing.
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  5. #4
    Son of LO The_Giant_Mantis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mpdscott
    There have been other cases reported, where one of the couple (consentually) involved has been over the age (ie 17 years), and the other under the age by a matter of a couple of months (ie 16 years, 9 months). The person over the age, has been classified as a predator, and placed on the Registry.
    Well observed..

    I also believe that, in Kansas at least, consenting sodomites of any age can be placed on the register. Not exactly its intended function.

    As for the level of secrecy involved in that information.. I realised today that, via the wonders of the internet, I can anonymously access, after clicking a small disclosure box promising that 'I will take extreme care when using this information due to risk of mistaken identity', details and photographs of 63,000 people on the sex offenders register in California. It just feels totally surreal for me.

    Another factor, of course, is that an idea is promoted that there are hundreds of paedophiles hanging around on every corner just waiting to leap on your child. The statistical reality is, if your child is abused, it's more likely to be by a member of your family or friends than by some random stranger.

    I just find it bizarre that the NSPCC (National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children) has trouble finding funding and support for its campaigns but some Murdochian journalist can scream 'paedophiles!' and start a witch hunt.
    Last edited by The_Giant_Mantis; June 23rd, 2006 at 18:42.

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    A very interesting topic. I am really in two minds about this one, to tell you the truth. I mean, I do understand how putting someone’s name in a publicly accessible registry of sex offenders (or is it only child molesters? I’m a bit unclear on this, so if you would please care to elaborate...) can expose them to the danger of retribution from (understandably) angry parents and that the rules of society only requires an offender to suffer his due punishment as determined by the law and not risk additional revenge by vigilantes; however, I can also understand why parents and other law-abiding citizens would want to know if there were a known sex offender living in their neighbourhood. I am usually not one to advocate for strict punishments or even the death penalty, but child molesters just make me want to grab the nearest rusty razorblade and start cutting off their essential parts... which I guess is exactly why the concept of a public registry is probably a bad idea. :shifty:

    Were I to choose, though, I would probably reject the idea of a public registry in favour of forced sterilisation of sex offenders. After all, being registered won’t prevent a child molester from going after your child, and some people might forget that you can only try to protect your child from the small percentage of child molesters who are actually registered, creating a false sense of security when in fact the majority of the perverts are still running at large. No, in my opinion the way to go would be to force all sex offenders to receive chemical sterilisation (forced impotency) for the rest of their lives, making them unable to repeat their crimes. Their victims will suffer all their lives and be unable to ever have a normal sexual relationship, so why should the offenders be permitted to?

    Edit: I should probably add to my rant above that from what I have learned, child molesters do have a significant tendency to reoffend, either in person or by supporting child pornography. The impulses that drove them to molest a child once won’t go away simply because they have been punished, even if they understand that what they did was illegal. Most paedophiles are quite delusional when it comes to the impact of their actions on the victims; they often claim that the child was willing and that what they did was not rape, refusing to accept the fact that child sexuality is vastly different from adult sexuality, and that the dependency of children on adults makes them very vulnerable to adult suggestions and influences, to the point that they will submit to almost anything and even defend the offender by claiming it was their own fault and that the offender is not to blame.

    And even if the paedophile acknowledges the immorality of his actions and the damage his does to his victims, he won’t be able to stop having thoughts about molesting children; a temptation at a weak moment might cause him to relapse even if he know that he’s doing something wrong. Those child molesters who really regret their actions are in Denmark offered chemical sterilisation, which unlike physical sterilisation not only makes the act impossible but also undesirable. Chemical sterilisation removes all sexual impulses, making it much easier to resist temptations even in the form of child pornography. However, the choice to receive chemical sterilisation is voluntary, and most offenders do not choose that option, making them little more than ticking bombs that would reoffend the moment they thought they could get away with it.

    I agree that hanging them out in public probably won’t help them readjust to society after a lengthy (or not so lengthy, curse you Danish legislation) time in prison, but merely spending time in prison won’t do anything to change them either (except perhaps if their fellow inmates discover what they’ve done, in which case retribution is usually swift and brutal – can’t help feeling a bit of Schadenfreude at that). No, psychological counselling and chemical sterilisation would work much better in my opinion.

    Alternatively, there’s always the death penalty. (

    ~Grephaun.
    Last edited by Grephaun; June 23rd, 2006 at 19:50.
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  7. #6
    Member Rogoth's Avatar
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    Here's another interesting wrinkle.

    In the US state of Maine, a young man recently began hunting down sex offenders and killing them. After killing two, he was indentified and hunted to Bosten, Massachussetts, where he was cornered and committed suicide. Interestingly, one of those sex offenders was a 24 year old who's offense was sex with his underage girlfriend, who was 15, when he was 19. http://ethics.tamucc.edu/article.pl?...00&mode=thread

    http://www.comcast.net/news/national...18/370033.html

    Do with that one what you will. I've also had the unpleasant discovery that a "halfway house" for sexual predators is located two streets from my house, due to the New Hampshire list. I've got a whole slew in my backyard, yippee.

    Would I be as vigilant with my baby girl if I didn't know? I hope I would be, but can I be sure. I used to let my son walk to school alone three streets over... crossing that street... when he was 8. Would I do that now? Probably not.

    It's a good thing to know as a parent. But I can see the wrinkles that would make it un-desirable from the offenders point of view. And of course, there's that recidivism rate. Pedophiles tend to re-offend.

    I'd say if they do put it in place in England, that they should probably be more careful to implement more controls on the list. Don't just let them plop it in place without thinking.

    Wow, I knew Kentucky was a little provincial, but I didn't realize they still had sodomy laws.
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  8. #7
    Advocatus Diaboli Rork's Avatar
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    I'm not really convinced by the idea. Any monitoring of offenders should be performed by agencies of the state rather than allowing the general population access to the information.

    For a start, people do stupid things. If a person has served, or is serving, part of their sentence on licence ("Freed" half-way through a sentence is actually balls), then it should be up to the system to check that they are keeping to the terms of their licence. If the general population has access to this information, the reaction tends to be "not in my backyard."

    Thing is, even former criminals need to live somewhere. They need jobs to support themselves and will hopefully be able to be rehabilitated (I realise in the case of the worst paedophiles that isn't really likely). But the general population fears. The media can increase these fears by manipulating the facts to distort the truth.

    How can someone move on if they feel threatened in a shop or walking down the street? That applies as much to the criminal as to those who live near them. Do you feel safer knowing that a former rapist lives a mile down the road? I suspect not. What about precautions? In some ways you should always be prepared or think something bad might happen - if you're out at night/in a strange place alone, the precautions a person takes probably shouldn't be any less whether you are in charge of the information or not.

    Good ol' Tony Blair talks about "rebalancing the scales of justice in favour of the victim" - nonsense. The law has to be without prejudice. "Rebalancing" the law borders on suggesting that the law exists as a form of revenge (As an aside, I wonder if they would extend the anonynimity to defendants in rape cases to make that "balanced").

    I suspect I'm rambling. But the criminal justice system exists to deal with criminals. Either those in prison, on licence or on the sex offender's register. The average person on the street does not have a dispassionate view of such things, which is a bigger danger in my opinion.


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  9. #8
    LO's unofficial Jester Visitor Q's Avatar
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    If the state thinks that a criminal be it a sex offender or a murderer or what ever is still a threat to society once their jail term is up I don't think that they should be let out of jail. For this reason I am kind of against a public registery simply because I think that if a criminal is reformed he should be allowed a second chance but if he isn't then he shouldn't be out on the streets again in the first place.
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  10. #9
    Senior Member Librarian Augustine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rork
    I'm not really convinced by the idea. Any monitoring of offenders should be performed by agencies of the state rather than allowing the general population access to the information.

    For a start, people do stupid things. If a person has served, or is serving, part of their sentence on licence ("Freed" half-way through a sentence is actually balls), then it should be up to the system to check that they are keeping to the terms of their licence. If the general population has access to this information, the reaction tends to be "not in my backyard."

    Thing is, even former criminals need to live somewhere. They need jobs to support themselves and will hopefully be able to be rehabilitated (I realise in the case of the worst paedophiles that isn't really likely). But the general population fears. The media can increase these fears by manipulating the facts to distort the truth.
    Here in Toronto there have been a few of these murder abduction cases. The most famous was Cecilia Zhang who was found dead and the killer just went to court a few weeks ago.

    The thing about these kinds of criminals is the fact that that they can't be rehabilitated to not like Children. It is their nature and like a person who is gay or straight you cannot change it. Therefore I believe that their should be a list of registered sex offenders.

    The whole not in my backyard sort of thing you mentioned I can understand that the sex offender might get hurt, but honestly what sort of pariah can hurt and take advantage of a child they way they do? If they get beaten up, murdered, or burnt at the stake I would feel that justice had been delivered onto their miserable souls

    However Grephauns mandatory chemical sterilisation sounds like a good solution

  11. #10
    Senior Member Joker's Avatar
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    Megan's law, Sarah's law are both moot points to me.

    I have two very young daughters and I tell you now that after the first one was born I was operating under "Joker's Law"

    Which is that everyone in the world is a potential pedophile and they better keep the hell away from my daughters!

    Even divine intervention couldn't save your pedophile ass if by some quirk of fate you ever got past me to get to either one of them.

    And even though my wife is a grown woman I have an equally enforcable version of "Joker's Law" concerning her as well.

    But more to the point, my wife and I check the SO registry every now and then but it's worthless as a tool because it's almost never the person you expect, its usually the ones you don't that do the most harm. That's why its just easier treat you all as potential SO's; you may not think it's fair, but it saves time. :yes:

    just my 2 cents
    Last edited by Joker; June 26th, 2006 at 21:55.

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