THE FINGER OF SUSPICION

10524678_10154392772245324_8312222850693804832_n2-copy-copyThe granting of effective pardons to deceased men convicted of ‘homosexual offences’ prior to the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults in 1967 may be deemed a Good Thing by those who have long promoted such an event; but when one considers the thousands incarcerated in British prisons on such charges before the long overdue change to the law, it’s worth remembering how many of them are still with us. For them, this is little more than an empty gesture. Any amendments to the change to include the living on the list of the exonerated – and the potential minefield of whether a post-1967 conviction for sex with any man under the then-consenting age of 21 could be wiped from the records – were prevented by cynical filibustering. Apparently, one can always apply to the Home Office, but I suppose that august department knows most of those applying will probably be six feet under by the time the paperwork is completed.

Convictions of the non-dead for homosexual offences both before and after 1967 remain on their CVs, and thanks to the advent of CRB (now DBS) checks, the one-time crimes that death would erase the existence of retain the power to prevent the living from working in any profession in which contact with society’s ‘vulnerable’ is paramount. Even the Rehabilitation Offenders Act 1974, which introduced a time limit on a past criminal conviction so that it would cease to be a blot on an individual’s future career chances after a specified period of rehabilitation, included numerous caveats in the shape of exemption from it where certain professions are concerned.

However, a system of scrutiny that once only applied to ex-cons now encompasses a far wider section of the population. A criminal check on a prospective employee, as with a credit check by a bank, is regarded by the advocates of the system as a sensible precaution, though many others may see it as an infringement of their civil liberties that places them under unwarranted suspicion, faced with an interminable wait for the process to clear a name that didn’t require clearing in the first place. Doctors, nurses, teachers, youth-workers and care-workers (to name just a few) are all under this suspicion until their innocence has been established.

Anybody passing a Disclosure and Barring Service check is awarded with a certificate that essentially proclaims ‘I am officially not a Paedo or pervert’, confirmation that the individual the system presumes to be guilty is actually innocent. In a Court of Law, the onus is not on the defence to prove the accused didn’t commit the crime they’ve been charged with, but on the prosecution to prove they did – and beyond reasonable doubt. When it comes to a DBS check, the process works the other way round. It temporarily criminalises great swathes of the workforce, marooning them in an unemployable limbo for months, keeping them hanging on for the moment when they receive notification that they are not what they knew they weren’t all along.

Following several high-profile cases whereby a genuine rapist/Paedo/murderer slipped through the net and committed their favourite crime again, the restrictions imposed by DBS checks have been tightened to such a degree that the implication for anyone having to endure a DBS check is that these rare occasions are judged to be the rule rather than the exception. Primary schools are struggling to recruit male teachers as a consequence, and it has also had a detrimental effect on organisations like the Girl Guides, who are suffering a shortage of adult volunteers. Who would even want to work with children under such circumstances?

Putting the private business of employers and employees in the hands of an institution as corrupt and untrustworthy as the Police Force was destined to be a recipe for disaster. One may as well hand over the running of social media to the Stasi. Ten years ago, the Home Office revealed almost 3,000 people had been accidentally labelled as criminals following CRB checks, whereas it emerged in 2009 that any minor contact with police, even when there wasn’t so much as a caution involved, would be present on an individual’s ‘Enhanced’ CRB or DBS file (the one reserved for those seeking to work with children, the elderly or disabled adults). So, if you once had to give your name and address to a woodentop when he saw you waiting for a taxi and judged you to be loitering before moving you on, it’ll be in there.

There is also an immense backlog of checks building up as the net widens to include more professions. Recent statistics exposed the worst performing Force when it came to backlogs; it was – surprise, surprise – the Met; another persistent offender, the South Yorkshire Police Force, was also in the top five. Last year it was reported that as many as 150,000 people with jobs lined-up were prevented from beginning these jobs due to DBS checks taking upwards of four months – and this despite Police Forces being set a target of processing at least 85% of applications over a period of 14 days. Labour blames the delays on Tory cuts, but it would hardly make much difference whoever happened to be running the country. The system itself is the problem.

Mind you, if you’ve already been through the process and are keen to move to another job in the same sector, it’s now possible (for the annual sum of £13) to re-use the same DBS certificate you were awarded last time round; move into another sector, however, and you’ll have to go through it all over again.

We have allowed the powers-that-be to criminalise us because we’ve been gullible enough to swallow the ‘it’s for your own good and the good of your children’ guff, and look where it has left us – suspicious, wary, mistrustful, seeing only the bad in people, encouraged to snoop and snitch, leaving vital professions under-staffed and starved of those who could make a massive difference; but, hey, some dead men convicted of things that were actually illegal at the time can now rest easy in their graves, so we can be proud of our country once again.

© The Editor

https://www.epubli.co.uk/shop/buch/48495#beschreibung

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15 thoughts on “THE FINGER OF SUSPICION

  1. It’s quite interesting, isn’t it, that ‘the gays’ went from being ‘bloody queers’, ‘possible subversives’, ‘deviants’, etc, via the ‘I don’t mind what they do behind closed doors, just don’t let ’em near me kids, is all’, to ‘the historically most oppressed minority’, ‘the best people ever’ in the space of, well, a few decades at most – a blink of time, really, in the long run.

    Harry and Paul are knowingly observant about this:

    All I’d say is don’t expect consistency from the British (or any) establishment.

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    1. You note that progress as if it were a bad thing.

      It took the courage of thousands of people coming out as gay for people to realise that their sons, daughters, bothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, even mothers and fathers were queer, basically the same as them, the same people they always knew, except in the bedroom department.

      It was an honest campaign that led to change. I am glad it worked. Now we have to make sure the pendulum post Trump/Brexit does not swing back again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s not quite what I mean.

        I have no problem with LGBT rights. But when we have 11 year olds being encouraged down the transexual route when they are not even at the start of sexual maturity, sorry this just doesn’t seem right to me.

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      2. Transexuals are not the same as gays.

        It has never been illegal to be transexual.

        And nobody is encouraging 11-year-olds to be transexual – just allowing them to express that feeling. Hormone treatment to delay the onset of puberty allows young people the room to discover if it is “just a phase” or something real for them. They can choose to revert to birth gender at any time before having any surgery with this delaying treatment. I see it as more preventative of unnecessary or painful surgery than encouragement.

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  2. Nice to have a blast of St Etienne!

    “It temporarily criminalises great swathes of the workforce, marooning them in an unemployable limbo for months, keeping them hanging on for the moment when they receive notification that they are not what they knew they weren’t all along.”

    Couldn’t agree more. We live in a topsy turvy world where bad is called good, and decent common sense is abandoned in favour of weird tick box bureaucracy which seems to work against and not for the people who are trying to do the right thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Despite agreeing with Windsock, I do have a problem with any such retrospective pardons. At the time of the ‘offence’, the guilty party broke the law of the time – whether that law was right or wrong is irrelevant, they knew it was a crime and were correctly judged at the time.
    The law now specifies that one must be 18 to buy tobacco, but that was not always the case, so perhaps we should be prosecuting all those who bought cigarettes when aged 16 or 17 (Guilty, M’Lud) – it’s the same principle – what’s legal/illegal can change, but the clock/calendar can not.
    The law is the law at a moment in time and, at that moment, those committing ‘offences’ are knowingly breaking the law – the earlier 16-year-old cigarette-buyer was not, so he’s innocent, but the gay folk doing what came naturally to them were knowingly in breach of it, hence a post-dated pardon is not appropriate.

    Had I been gay during the time of prohibition, I’m sure I would have broken the law more than once, but I would not expect any future pardon to be applied to any comnvictions that I may have earned.

    (Yes, I’m back – after a catalogue of IT problems and a period in foreign lands, normal service is resumed.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome back, indeed! Re the subject under discussion, I can understand the purpose of the posthumous pardoning to a point, but including it in this piece was my way of trying to tie it in with the whole DBS check system and the fact that those still alive who were imprisoned for the ‘crimes’ that death would absolve them of still have those convictions hanging over them. It seems an unbalanced achievement to me and had I served time pre-1967, I’d be pissed-off seeing the dead exonerated when it matters not a jot to them yet could still matter a lot to me.

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      1. I agree that it’s folly to pardon the dead whilst expecting the living to apply for clearance, but I question the basic premise of retrospective pardons for anything other than miscarriage of justice.
        As for the DBS system, that will remain flawed and generally ineffective, but it’s more about being seen to be doing something, rather than achieving anything.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. With every year that passes I seem to feel a fearful and growing dred, in the very pit of my stomach, that he is proving to be all too disturbingly accurate in so much of his vision of the “future!”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think that police checks, political checks *and social media checks* are now being carried out by most major employers, not just those where children are involved or where national security is involved (eg the UK Atomic Energy Authority, which has always had the political checks). Hence recruitment processes are interminably slow, which frustrates those working for the employers when it takes several months to fill a vacancy, allowing the advertising and interview process which take place before those checks.

    Liked by 1 person

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