Sunday, August 31, 2014

Police rushing to disrupt families

From time to time there are coordinated arrests of child pornography offenders. <Here's a recent one from the UK >.

I've already argued that I don't think simple CP possession should be a criminal offense. What other benefits could come from these raids? The police congratulate themselves because they found a few people to charge with other offenses, and they remind us that some CP possession offenders go on to abuse children. Some do. But let's consider a "control experiment". Suppose the police simply did a raid on the houses of 660 random people in Britain. Surely they would find many who are engaged in some sort of criminal activity. But that's the sort of police activity that freedom-loving people detest -- it suggests a police state. In the public's view it's tolerable as long as it's pedophiles being investigated (a civil liberties travesty, but let's ignore that). Even within their values, they neglect what happens when things go wrong. Innocent people can be caught up in the web. In the UK's <"Operation Ore" >, many of the people were located on the basis of what others had done with their stolen credit cards, many totally innocent lives were ruined, and an estimated 33 people killed themselves.

Consider this quote from the recent raid: "More than 400 children across the United Kingdom have been protected from harm as a result". What that means is that the offending man was either removed from the home or else the child was removed. The attitude of law enforcement is that it's far better to disrupt 19 families unnecessarily than to let one child be abused by one man. No matter that the vast majority of pedophiles feel no attraction to their own children. No matter that the child in the home is a 6-year-old girl and all the video was all of 12-year-old boys.

Having a father removed from the house is a very traumatic event for a child Being removed from a home into foster care is even more disruptive.

And here's my controversial point of the day. Suppose we're talking traumatic abuse. The chances are very slim that the man is just about to abuse the child for the first time that night. Suppose the child has already been abused 10 times. Is it really going to be significantly more traumatic if they are abused an 11th time? This may sound terribly callous. The abuse is terrible and beyond defense. But here we are weighing competing risks in a child's life. I'm not comparing a child's suffering against some molester's satisfaction. I'm weighing the welfare of 19 children against one case where it's the 11th episode of abuse. Taking several days or even weeks to look in detail at the situation would be well worth while. If there is circumstantial evidence of abuse, ask the child in a brief, pleasant interview if anything bad has happened. If she says no, then leave the family alone. I would also expect that knowing a man is under investigation by the police would likely scare him out of any further illegal activity in the short term.

If it's anything like the US, the raid itself can be <very > <traumatic >.

Police should not disrupt a family if the only evidence they have of trouble is the simple possession of child pornography.


  1. well, fascism will always seek to break family ties. That is almost a definition. have you seen 1900?

  2. Innocence until proven guilty versus protecting childs - this is not an easy choice. And I disagree with your controversial point of the day, cause there is the risk that a trauma gets bigger as longer the abuse takes place. Moreover, a traumatised, and scared children which has often been threated by its abuser to not tell anyone what has happened might not tell the truth to the police.

    However, their was a strange clause in the article you quoted: "Some of those who start by looking at indecent images online go on to abuse children directly, he said, so arresting them now may prevent them from crossing that line."

    I think you are right with your first clause. It can not be a rule of law to arrest people for crimes they might be doing in the future. And that might be a better controversial point: Even a parent who posesses child porn might be a good parent.

    Best, Creasy

    1. I didn't mean to say that abuse should just go on indefinitely. Just that police ought to take their time to make sure it really is worth disrupting the family before they do. And I also agree that sometimes you need more than a single polite conversation with a child -- but I don't think that parental CP possession is by itself enough to warrant an extensive interrogation.

  3. I would think that parental CP possession would be sufficient to merit investigation, though I don't think it is sufficient to warrant breaking up the family. I would think that ongoing abuse should result in further steps--probably removing the parent and prosecution.

    1. I agree with that totally, if "investigation" is a truly open-ended process instead of one where investigators are convinced there's abuse and won't stop until they find it. And I didn't stress it, but if indeed there is abuse, it has to be stopped in some way. I agree.