Aficionados of the hit crime series ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ know what the phrase ‘sex offenders list’ means. It’s a crying shame that we don’t have something similar in Europe.
This has to change.
The sex offenders’ list I refer to above is a simple matter. It is a list that contains the details of anyone convicted of a crime of a sexual nature against a child.
It’s up to each jurisdiction to define what constitutes a ‘crime of a sexual nature’. Some countries are harsher than others. In some case this can also be a matter of culture, like the age of consent.
In Europe the age of consent varies from 14 to 18, depending on which country you’re in.
We can all agree that crimes of a sexual nature exist in every jurisdiction.
But why am I calling for a list of sex offenders. We don’t have a list of thieves, or a list of fraudsters.
So why this?
Child sex crimes are some of the vilest crimes in our society. We’re not talking about something as simple as having your iPhone stolen. We’re talking about crimes so horrible they’re used as weapons of war.
If such a list existed, I could check someone’s name against it before employing them in a school, for example. I don’t think the list should be available to the public, because the risk of an unsubstantiated witch hunt would be high. But before employing people, I do think that the following institutions should be able to check the list:
- Schools, nurseries and any establishment educating minors.
- Orphanages, hospitals and any establishment caring for minors, or victims of crime.
- Police, the army and any governmental institution which the public should trust.
There’s no need for the list to be available to these institutions either. If I’m worried that a spiteful recruiter may spread rumours about me, the list can be available via an authenticated query on a government website. The recruiter can input my name and some identifying data and get a simple “Yes” or “No” back. There’s no need for the recruiter to know why the system says, “No.” (An audit trail can allow me to challenge that decision should the system malfunction.)
Of course, anyone convicted of a sex crime needs to be on this list.
What if someone moved from another country?
Since different countries handle these things in different ways, it’s easy for someone convicted of sex crimes to up sticks and move to a jurisdiction with fewer controls.
It wouldn’t be fair to prevent me from working with children but to allow random foreigners to work with them because you can’t check their status.
Current legislation allows individual countries to ban convicted criminals from working with children again, but not all countries share this information with others. To be precise, these countries don’t have a legal obligation to send this kind of information to other countries:
This is why I advocate for a pan-European list which each country can use in a similar way from any part of the European Union. After all, if a criminal can cross borders then we need crime-fighting to cross borders too.
What do we need to put this in place?
Europe already shares information across the Union. It has systems in place to share information about visas, passengers and cargo. Such systems are models for this sort of thing – both from a technical and legislative perspective.
During my election campaign, I wrote about the need to have a pan-European approach to child sex abusers.
I urge Commissioner Reynders to look into this matter so that we can have European standards introduced. The Commission wants to fight child abuse but seems to worry about online abuse only.
There’s more that we can do.
There’s more that we should do.
Why should your children be at risk in one European country, but be safe in another?
Why shouldn’t they always be safe?
- Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council assessing the extent to which the Member States have taken the necessary measures in order to comply with Directive 2011/93/EU of 13 December 2011 on combating the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and child pornography; European Commission; 2016-12-16
- Fight against child sex abuse; European Commission; (Retrieved 2020-01-02)
All references were valid and correct when this article was published. Changes to referenced websites or web pages may render some references invalid. If this is the case, please leave a comment below.
Written by: Antoine P Borg
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