Sunday, October 10, 2010

UK - School dinner lady in 'grooming for sex' row with education chiefs after giving pupil a BISCUIT

Original Article

The world is friggin' insane! I guess next, talking to a child will land you in the slammer for "grooming" a child for sex?

10/09/2010

By David Sharrock

A dinner lady was warned she could be accused of 'grooming' a primary school pupil after she gave him a biscuit.

[name withheld], a catering supervisor, handed the boy a biscuit after he asked for one. The child and the woman are related.

But the following day, she was warned that her action could be interpreted under child protection legislation as 'grooming' the child for sexual exploitation.

She was so upset that she refused to return to work at St Mary’s Primary School in Co Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, until the row was sorted out.

During this time, she was threatened with the sack and suffered a 'horrendous' two years of rumour and innuendo.

Yesterday her husband, [name withheld], said: 'It has been a horrendous two-plus years for my wife because there was a shadow hanging over her that she’d done something wrong.'

His wife was made to attend three meetings, firstly with the acting principal then two with the school principal to discuss the biscuit incident.

One of the meetings lasted more than an hour and when she was requested to attend a fourth meeting, she left her job because she was so upset after being subjected to 'a grilling'.

The incident was reported to Northern Ireland Ombudsman Tom Frawley, who heard that during her absence the woman’s parish priest was told by the principal that she was absent from school due to a 'serious child protection issue'.

Mr Frawley said Mrs [name withheld] should receive an apology for her treatment. She will also receive compensation.

The dinner lady told the ombudsman that in May 2008 she was working in the school kitchen when a child raised his hand and asked for a biscuit.

She brought this to the attention of the catering assistant who was serving biscuits and gave permission that the child could be given one.

She said that the next day, the Key Stage 1 manager, who was acting principal, came to the kitchen and told her that under the Child Protection Act she could be seen to be grooming a child.

The child in question is a relative of Mrs [name withheld].

Mrs [name withheld] then endured a meeting at which the matter was considered resolved. But when the permanent principal returned to work, she told of the potential child protection problems.

She told the ombudsman: 'I left the meeting very upset and confused... I felt that I had been subjected to a grilling and a "wrist-slapping exercise".'

She also told the inquiry that she gave no preferential treatment and any child approaching the serving hatch would have been treated in the same manner.

A further 40-minute meeting took place and when the principal sought a further meeting with her she decided to leave her job.

She was informed that if she did not return to St Mary’s by February this year she would lose her job.

She said she was 'aggrieved' that the principal told the parish priest she was absent from school due to a 'serious child protection issue'.

The ombudsman said the board did take the initiative to arrange temporary postings for Mrs [name withheld] in other schools while a resolution to her complaint was being sought.

But he noted his 'concern' that Mrs [name withheld] was informed that if she did not return to St Mary’s by February 1 her employment would be terminated.

'It is my view that the abrupt manner in which the board informed her of that development was highly insensitive to her position... it made her feel very anxious about having to return to a working environment in which there was still a lack of policy or procedure for dealing with any future grievances she may have had about her non-board co-workers,' the ombudsman said.

The threat to terminate her employment if she failed to return was 'entirely inappropriate'.

A deal was eventually reached between the school and Mrs [name withheld] and she returned to work.

In a statement, the school said: 'We understood that the issues were resolved to the satisfaction of the individuals involved using mediation through the Labour Relations Agency.'

Mervyn Storey, chairman of the Stormont Education Committee, said that while rules were there to protect children and staff, this was a case of 'political correctness gone too far'.

'I think it's a sad situation that schools are so boxed in because of legislation,' Mr Storey said.



KS - Wrong for all of Kansas

Original Article

10/09/2010

By Frank Smith

Sen. Bob Marshall (Globe, Oct. 4) has endorsed Sen. Derek Schmidt’s candidacy for attorney general.

Marshall lauded Schmidt for passage of “Jessica’s Law ,” named for a Florida 9-year-old raped and killed by a pedophile. Schmidt brought Jessica’s dad to Kansas to testify for his bill.

In fact, the law makes it far more difficult to prosecute child molesters. Rigid imposition of 25-year sentences forces many cases to proceed to immensely expensive trials instead of plea bargains meriting long terms. Vulnerable children are frequently forced to testify publicly about the molestations.

Our Kansas Supreme Court has reversed numerous sentences under Jessica’s Law. Prosecutors complain it hinders prosecutions, clogging court calendars.

Schmidt was eminently aware the law would have these negative effects. He pushed it for other reasons, however, completely unrelated to child victimization.
- Votes?

He’d been trying to repeal the Kansas law prohibiting construction of new for-profit prisons. He received considerable contributions from that expensive, riot and escape-ridden, corruptive industry. Schmidt appeared to be “steering” contributions to other senators, soon becoming majority leader.

Operators could have built anywhere, importing other states’ most dangerous convicts.

After Schmidt’s repeal failed in 2004 and 2005, he “bundled” his bill with Jessica’s Law, making legitimate opposition almost suicidal. His “total package” would generate 1,000 more inmates to fill his for-profit penitentiary. Just two senators courageously resisted.

Schmidt was simply grandstanding at taxpayers’ expense. His intense ambition was apparent. The bill padded his résumé.

Ironically, Jessica’s brother, 18, was subsequently convicted of fondling an Ohio 14-year-old.

Joshua Lunsford’s dad minimized that: “We’re talking about Romeo and Juliet here, not some 36-year-old pervert.”

Each Kansas inmate costs taxpayers $25,000 annually, $625,000 for a 25-year sentence in today’s dollars. An 18-year-old touching a 14-year-old’s breast falls under the law.

Was it worth it simply to push Schmidt’s aspirations? Ask Kansas voters.



FL - Juror: Sex offender law unfair - It's like "Minority Report!"

Original Article

Finally someone who is not drinking the political kool-aid!

10/10/2010

By RICHARD PRIOR

She questions Jimmy Ryce Act, asks 'You can lock somebody up, throw away the key?'

She was Juror Number 6, a woman with some mighty definite ideas about right and wrong.

She's a conservative Republican, a law-and-order woman who doesn't want criminals coddled.

And she's appalled that the state can lock people up for what they might do.

"Do you remember the movie where you get arrested for future crimes?" [name withheld] asked. "I didn't realize in America you could be given an indefinite sentence."

"They hide you in a hospital, but that's the only difference."

Similarities between the recent civil commitment trial of [name withheld] in St. Augustine and the 2002 movie "Minority Report" became unmistakable as the three-day trial progressed, said [name withheld].

"I'm not a bleeding heart liberal, but I would like to think someone can't incarcerate me because they think I might do something."

[name withheld] originally was the alternate on the five-woman, one-man jury that began to hear testimony Sept. 27 in [name withheld]'s trial before Circuit Judge J. Michael Traynor.

A surprise jury pick

She became the sixth juror when one of the others reported that she had seen a network news show about a mother who confronted her daughter's killer in California.

[name withheld] is a registered nurse who works with troubled youngsters at daniel in Jacksonville, reportedly the state's oldest child service agency. It spells its name in lower-case letters.

"I was surprised I got picked (for the jury) because daniel (in Jacksonville) deals with problem kids, anywhere from 5 to 17, who are sexually active," said [name withheld]. "They have been abused or are abusers." [name withheld] was convicted of endangering the welfare of a child in 1996 after reportedly having sex with a 12-year-old girl in New York. He was 20 years old.

That conviction got him six months in jail and five years probation.

He was sentenced in St. Johns County to five years in prison for lewd and lascivious battery and lewd or lascivious molestation in 2004.

He had been convicted of having sex with one 15-year-old girl and trying to coax another 15-year-old into also having sex. He was 27 years old at the time.

Two examinations

Under Florida's Jimmy Ryce Act, sex offenders who are determined to still be a danger to society may be held indefinitely while they get treatment. Two psychologists under contract with the state examined [name withheld] in November 2007 to decide if he qualified for involuntary commitment and additional treatment as a violent sexual predator after his prison time was up.

They recommended commitment.

The Jimmy Ryce Act was passed in 1998 in reaction to the 1995 rape, beating and shooting death of a 9-year-old in Redland, 20 miles southwest of Miami.

"I'd never heard of (the Jimmy Ryce Act)," [name withheld] said. "Only one person on the jury had. He lived in Homestead at the time and remembered the case."

"The person who did that to that boy, Jimmy Ryce, deserved the death penalty as far as I'm concerned. But what happens is these laws aren't used the way they were intended to be used. Not once (in [name withheld]'s cases) was there any weapon involved, not even physical force."

"I don't like the law, now that I've heard of it. You can lock somebody up, throw away the key for an indefinite period of time?"

When [name withheld] was released from prison in March 2008, he was handed over to the custody of the Department of Children and Families and taken to the Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia, about 50 miles east of Sarasota.

[name withheld], now 34, has been there for more than two years, unable to get treatment because his commitment trial had not been held.

As attorneys questioned prospective jurors for the trial, "I knew I could be unbiased," said [name withheld].

She pointed to some photographs on a mantle in her home.

Protective

"That's my granddaughter over there," she said. "I'm pretty protective of her, so I guess my bias would have been in favor of the state. But when I said I could be objective, I knew I could be."

"At the closing of the state's case, I knew I was going to vote for the defense."

There was no "Road to Damascus" moment for [name withheld] or, apparently, for the other jurors as the trial moved toward its conclusion.

"This is supposed to be about violent sexual predators, and I kept waiting for the violence to come up," [name withheld] said. "I kept waiting for one of the witnesses to say he threw (them) against the wall or pushed (them) to the ground or pulled a knife."

"When I realized that wasn't going to happen, I thought ... well, I listened politely to the closing argument, but by that time I'd made up my mind."

Assistant State Attorney Jenny Carlson, one of the two prosecutors on the case, said the title of the statute may be confusing.

'Confusing' title

Originally called simply the Jimmy Ryce Act, the law is now referred to as the Jimmy Ryce Involuntary Civil Commitment for Sexually Violent Predators' Treatment and Care Act.

But, she said, the goal is the same.

"Violence in the common sense of the word is not required under the law," said Carlson. "You could have the worst pedophile with 20 victims, and ... he wouldn't be 'violent,' but I hope the jury would want to commit him."

The other problem was the prosecution's use of an "actuarial instrument" that is supposed to predict the likelihood of adult male sex offenders reoffending.

The Static-99 was compared at trial to the actuarial tables used by insurance companies to predict risk. But defense attorney John Selden and the jurors had doubts about the program's reliability since none of the baseline respondents came from Florida.

"Most of us were concerned that it was from Canada," [name withheld] said. "Anyone with car insurance knows you're compared with other people in your neighborhood, your age, your gender."

"Also, the Canadian company would not allow the raw statistics to be examined. Before I send someone to a lifelong commitment, I'd like to know what the scale is based on."

Carlson said the program is the one most psychologists use.

"Based on what I know and what I've seen, it's used in every case," she said. "Every doctor who's ever testified for the state said it's the best we have."

First vote

When the [name withheld] jurors left the courtroom to consider their verdict, they took an immediate vote. It was 4-2 against commitment.

"I was very happy that three other jurors agreed with me right off the bat," said [name withheld]. "I thought the law itself was being misapplied. ... I don't understand why the state did this against ([name withheld]) when he never did anything violent."

One of the jurors thought [name withheld] would be better off in a place where he could get three hot meals a day and not be homeless, said [name withheld].

The other vote for commitment came from a woman with a daughter about the age of the victims. But, the more she thought about it, she realized her daughter "would know better" than to fall for [name withheld]'s ploys, [name withheld] said.

The second vote, which came quickly, was unanimous against commitment.

"My thought is, I'm not a lawyer; I'm not a judge, so I can't deal with the constitutionality of it," [name withheld] said. "My feeling is, I think this is a constitutionally questionable law. A guy commits that offense, you give him a longer sentence, throw him in jail, throw away the key. ..."

[name withheld] said she understands why horrific crimes lead to new laws, but she doesn't like the practice.

"When a brutal case occurs, the public wants to do something. It makes us feel better that we passed a law," she said. "This law has unintended consequences that can come back and bite someone's behind. I think these laws are just feel-good measures. ..."

"Before I was called for jury duty, someone was talking about safety in society. I was saying there has to be a balance. Because if you go to North Korea, you're not going to have a lot of crime. You go into one of these societies that's so closed and so restrictive, do you want to be safer there?"

"We have to have a balance."



AK - Gov. Sean Parnell exploiting the sex offender moral panic for votes!

Original Article

Like usual, it's election time, so out comes the sex offender fear campaign for votes.

10/08/2010

By Ted Land

ANCHORAGE - Gov. Sean Parnell has a new plan to toughen laws for cyber-crimes and conduct a statewide sweep of the sexual offender registry. He announced the reforms Friday morning, as he plans for what he hopes is another term in office.

Parnell says he thinks there's widespread support in the Legislature to continue toughening laws -- but he'll only see those reforms beyond November if he can get re-elected.

I just want it known from Alaska that we intend to take down anybody preying upon our children through any means,” Parnell said.

Among his proposals: toughening penalties for those who produce child pornography and entice children online, banning stalking through spyware and cell phones, and strengthening laws that protect seniors.

I anticipate strong support from legislators; they were very supportive this past year on the Choose Respect initiative,” Parnell said.

It seems to me if he's unrolling these plans three weeks before an election, he could have done this months and months ago,” said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ethan Berkowitz.

Berkowitz says the state needs better resources and staffing beyond what Parnell proposes in order to make tougher laws work.

What's not a good solution is to just offer up empty rhetoric and then pretend that it's a legitimate solution to a complicated problem,” Berkowitz said.

Berkowitz also continues to question Parnell’s campaign finances. Spending reports released this week show Parnell's running mate, Mead Treadwell, carries a debt of nearly $180,000 left over from before the Republican primary.

Treadwell says he's planning to pay down the debt himself separately from the overall campaign fund, which reports raising nearly $180,000 since the primary.

Berkowitz and his running mate, Diane Benson, have raised more than $200,000 since the primary. They say Treadwell's debt is a sign of shared irresponsibility.

I think the concern that Alaskans ought to have is if this is how he runs his campaign, it's a pretty good indication of how he'd run the state if he had the chance to do it,” Berkowitz said.

As far as I know, the Parnell-Treadwell campaign is meeting our obligations, and we're continuing to raise money to finish this race,” Parnell said.

To suggest the governor does not know how to budget is ludicrous. While the governor was cutting the budget as co-chair of Senate Finance, when oil was $9 a barrel, Ethan Berkowitz was leading the charge to add millions of dollars,” said Parnell’s campaign manager, Michelle Toohey.

For now, Parnell says he's focusing a full sweep of the state sex offender registry. He's directed law enforcement to track down people whose information is outdated or incorrect.

In regards to the timing of his announcement, Parnell says what some consider politics he sees as his duty to make sure Alaskans are protected.