Max Page was the head English teacher at my high school. But he was known to us boys as “Lord Of The Flies”. This was our “set book” (I never DID read it) but that was not the reason for our nickname for him. Oh no, THAT was down to his activities in the library stockroom.
Oh yes – Max Page was a paedophile.
And back in the Sixties, I encountered a few. This was due to my love of travel and exploration. In those days transport was subsidised, so in the holidays, a kid could travel all over the place for a few pence – and I did.
But seemingly everywhere I went, these creepy, middle-aged guys would pester me. Most were just a pain – but a few got too close for comfort (I’ll spare you the details) and one was DANGEROUS. Luckily, I was wily and managed to get through that period unscathed.
However, on the one occasion I REPORTED an advance, I discovered something disturbing. In those days, kids were NOT BELIEVED.
The occasion was on a London tube train. I was then eleven. The driver had obviously spotted me boarding his front carriage and knowing there were no other passengers in it, had allowed his door to swing open. And like any eleven-year-old boy, my curiosity got the better of me (in those days, ALL boys wanted to be train-drivers).
I peered inside his cabin and he invited me to join him – I accepted his invitation. But when OTHER invitations followed, I made my excuses and left.
Which is where it would have ended, had I not moved to an occupied carriage where three men were talking. I could not help overhearing their conversation and it became obvious that they were railway officials. I told them my story and they confronted the driver, who of course, denied all.
Finally, the leader of the group declared that I was a liar and had better not repeat my story or I might end up in trouble. Then he and one of his men got off the train, leaving me with the third.
This guy admitted that he DID believe me, but said it would STILL be better to drop it – the man had a wife and kids – and the incident had doubtless scared the CRAP out of him – and therefore he would NEVER do it again.
Which of course, is VERY different from the way it would have been handled TODAY. These days, kids are ALWAYS believed. But is that a good thing? The thing is, post-political correctness, the pendulum has swung the other way – but as with most aspects of PC, it has swung TOO FAR.
Let us take these two cases. Max Page (who thankfully never fancied ME) eventually got nailed. We heard about a court date and a tiny, three-line piece appeared in the local newspaper – buried half-way down an inner page – and we never saw him again.
But many, MANY years later, I was in the records department of my local library – researching my family tree – when I decided to check the newspaper morgue to see what had happened to him.
It took some digging. The material relating to the case was limited to court records. NOTHING had been written in the NEWS section.
It turned out that following “reports”, he’d been given probation, with a proviso that he attended a local mental hospital once a week, for a minimum of a year. That was IT. No jail time – nothing. Shocking. Like the train driver, he had gotten AWAY with it.
But had they? The fact is, the railway official was probably RIGHT. The train driver WOULD have had the crap scared out of him – and possibly did NOT re-offend. And as for Max, he lost his well-paid job as head of a school department AND his career. He would NEVER have been able to return to teaching.*
Here’s the thing. About twenty years ago, following a succession of child-sex horror-stories, the rabid British tabloid press discovered a whole new way of exploiting the British public, to increase their circulation. They went on a witch-hunt for paedophiles.
They broke laws and caused CHAOS, whilst hiding behind a shield of self-righteous indignation. And the next couple of years featured a series of incidents where people were attacked, burned out of their houses and in a few cases actually KILLED. And many were totally INNOCENT.
The most bizarre case was a man who was attacked because of his entry in the PHONE BOOK. He was listed as a paediatrician – a doctor who specialises in the care and treatment of children. Even allowing for grammatical ignorance, it is hard to imagine what sort of mind thought that paedophiles would actually LIST themselves as such.
Then there were cases involving celebrities. The TV presenter who sent her holiday snaps off to be developed, which included pictures of her toddlers splashing naked in the surf, had a visit from the POLICE. And a famous boxer’s estranged wife, involved in a messy divorce and who wanted sole custody of their children, claimed her estranged husband had behaved inappropriately with them.
The first case was generally acknowledged as being absurd, but while the woman in the second case later recanted, how many people believed she wasn’t pressured or paid off? Mud sticks.
And, closer to home, a friend of this reporter nearly had his family ripped APART when social workers arrived at his home – while I was THERE – and announced that they had received reports… They insisted on carting his daughter off to a hospital for an intimate medical examination which revealed that NOTHING was amiss.
But of course, they refused to reveal WHO had done the reporting. My friend believed it was some neighbours with whom he had recently had a dispute. He consulted his lawyer, who informed him that judges are HIGHLY reticent to force social workers to break confidentiality.
Nowhere is the fear and paranoia generated by aspects of PC more apparent than with SEX – particularly paedophilia. And the tradition of “innocent until proven guilty” is turned on its HEAD.
So where does this leave us? Certainly, the situation that existed when I was a boy was unacceptable – but is the one that has replaced it any better? Now, thanks to the press-fuelled paranoia, the general feeling in Britain is that all paedophiles should be strung up by their gonads and beaten with sticks until they are dead.
But they forget one thing. Example. I have a son. He’s twenty-eight now, but once upon a time, HE was eleven. And if he had come home one day, saying how some creepy guy had interfered with HIM – I would have been SERIOUSLY annoyed.
However, if instead of HIM coming home, two cops with long faces had turned up to break the bad news…
What I am saying is this; today, a paedophile ALREADY faces draconian measures if caught. Jail – and when his fellow-prisoners find out what he is in for (and they WILL) he can expect a succession of BEATINGS. And even when his time is served, his ordeal is not over. Then, he will find himself on the “Sex-Offenders Register”.
This device was, like PC, designed to IMPROVE the system. But any cop can access it. And they do. Of course, the information is confidential, but cops are just people (well, almost) and can be guaranteed to leak the information.
Which means that instead of merely being monitored, the offender can end up being torched out of their home.
Of course, like this chronicler, few would care – for the offender. They, like me, would see Max Page as having gotten off lightly – and that train driver as having gotten off altogether.
But what about offenders’ VICTIMS? THEY are the ones who concern ME.
I mean, assuming an offender is actually GUILTY (and justice is hardly an exact science) he only ASSAULTED a child. Bad enough – but what if the penalties for his crimes were even WORSE than they are now? Sex crimes are crimes of passion. But when passion is SPENT – REALITY intervenes.
The small person at his feet would be the only witness to his atrocity – and living in a Europe with no capital punishment, what would the man have to lose by eliminating that witness?
Thus, if paedophiles had MORE to face, when the child looked up at their attacker and saw the sudden fear in THEIR eyes – they would realize what that fear might drive them to DO…
* Update: I have recently discovered that Max Page DID manage to return to teaching – at a private American School. Then again, given the standard of English on their website – it appears they had LOW STANDARDS.