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TOMMY SHERIDAN: State murder no answer to paedo crime.

Byline: TOMMY SHERIDAN

ONE issue guaranteed to inspire debate and often heated disagreement is crime and punishment.

Most people have an opinion, though the coverage of certain cases by the press can inspire warped views based on partial information.

Take capital punishment, for example. Some argue that those who take someone's life should themselves lose their life.

I disagree - but not out of any moral or religious conviction. I don't believe in God and, therefore, do not hold the opinion that only God has the divine right to give or take life.

Of course, I respect the right of citizens to hold such religious beliefs.

Although, when you consider the so-called "Christian values" of George Bush and the number of lives he is responsible for taking in places like Texas, Afghanistan and Iraq, you are overcome with nausea at the hypocrisy of the man.

No, my opposition to the death penalty is firmly rooted in the reality of human frailty.

Our system of justice often stinks and gets things badly wrong.

I know Paddy Hill and consider him a friend. I know Robert Brown, Joe Steele and Tommy Campbell. All of them have something in common - they would all be dead now if we had capital punishment.

Yet they are all innocent of the crimes they were convicted of.

Those real examples can be multiplied 10 and 20 times over to illustrate that a death penalty can be more of an injustice than a form of justice. It is irreversible.

Scores of cases in America are now being highlighted which prove the innocence of those "sent to the chair" for lethal injection.

Their names may be cleared but their lives cannot be revived.

However - and this is the controversial bit - if there was ever to be an exception to the rule, those guilty of child murder should be at the front of the queue.

Only a couple of months ago, Stuart Leggate was convicted for the brutal murder of eight-year-old Mark Cummings in Royston, Glasgow.

This man had been jailed already for child sex offences and served only half of a four-year sentence.

He was then housed in a block of flats that allowed him easy access to prey on other kids. Mark became the victim. His small, broken body was callously discarded in a rubbish chute.

Quite rightly, calls have been made to investigate this case and how a convicted child sex offender like Leggate was allowed the opportunity to abuse and murder young Mark.

Without wishing to pre-empt the outcome of such a justified inquiry, I believe blame will not attach itself to the social workers, police or housing authorities involved.

IT IS the current system of dealing with and monitoring convicted paedophiles like Leggate that is the problem.

The professionals did their jobs, but it wasn't enough.

For the sake of kids like Mark Cummings, Sarah Payne and other innocent victims, the system of dealing with child sex offenders needs to be radically overhauled.

Is capital punishment appropriate? I can only just convince myself not.

Is tougher sentencing and stricter monitoring necessary? Absolutely.

Let's start dealing with child killers and sexual abusers more radically.

This is an area where socialists who value human life should take the lead, not the rabid right-wingers.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 15, 2004
Words:545
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