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man repairing girl bike smallApril 7th, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

This is the good news (The Guardian, 4/5/13). Once you've read the article you might wonder what I've been smoking, but I'm as right-headed as I ever am. Seriously, the events described in the article, horrible as they are, are the good news. It could have been so much worse. That it could have been is why the article is so important. Remember, this is run-of-the-mill, a case that, for the police, was less than nothing, an investigation they probably won't remember this time next year. And it's the commonplace nature of it, the (dare I say it?) banality of the thing that makes it so frightening.

For what should be obvious reasons, the article changes the names of the two young parents involved, calling them Keiron and Julie, and their infant son, Sam.

The article lets Julie and Keiron tell their versions of the same story and lets it go at that. The story is that of what happened when the police showed up at their house one day. They were there to arrest Keiron and, following police procedure to the letter, do their best to destroy the lives and livelihoods of the pair over the next four months.

Keiron, you see, worked at a daycare center. Some time before, he'd discovered his great love of and affinity for kids and decided to convert same into a career caring for them. He worked at the daycare center and Julie worked from home. Not long previously, she'd given birth to Sam and wasn't yet ready to return to work, but fortunately her computer and Internet access allowed her to continue earning while she recovered from childbirth. Keiron was in the process of transitioning to being a nanny, a job that paid better and was more flexible than his job at the daycare center. All seemed well in the lives of the two young adults and their newborn son.Then two police arrived. It seems someone at the daycare center had accused Keiron of sexually abusing one of the boys there. Was it the boy himself? Was it an adult with a grudge against Keiron? The article doesn't say and it's not obvious that either he or Julie knows. But whatever the case, he was charged and arrested. Julie called a solicitor who arranged promptly for bail and so Keiron spent only limited time in jail.

Meanwhile, the police, assuming that, since Keiron had been charged with child sexual abuse, he must have loads of child pornography on his computer, absconded with his and Julie's telling them they'd get them back in a month at the earliest. The problem for Julie was that her computer was what allowed her to work and earn. The two are young, they had a new mouth to feed and care for and Julie couldn't work as much as before, so the two were strapped for income. Plus they had to hire legal help for Keiron. The computer cost £2,000 and there was no way they could replace it.

And of course, since Keiron was charged with an offense against a child, a court ordered him not to have any unsupervised contact with any minor child including his own. There went his job. Keiron had to call the family for whom he'd agreed to be nanny and explain his situation and the fact that he couldn't care for their child. Into the bargain, because he couldn't be alone with his own son, Julie effectively had to do all the child care.

In short, the police, which were acting as an arm of child protection services, had completely hamstrung Keiron and Julie. They had little income and no way to earn any. Weeks went by and finally the police rang them up to inform them of the happy news that the computer was clean. But when the police brought the thing back, the screen was broken, so it took even more time for Julie to start earning again. Keiron of course was still unable to work due to the court order against him. That would be in effect for another 21 days.

At the end of that time though, the police informed them that the order was to be extended for another three months to give them time to complete their investigation.

The investigation? Oh, that. The investigation turns out to have been entirely unnecessary. The daycare center had known about the allegations for several days before Keiron was arrested. The staff were sure he was innocent for the good and sufficient reason that Keiron had almost no contact with the child who complained. So they went to work establishing the whereabouts of the child and that of Keiron on the day in question. Sure enough, they found that he had had no interaction with the boy at all that day. Keiron tells it this way:

Julie and I meet the nursery bosses and have an informal chat about what has happened. They tell me they were able to track the day-to-day movements of the child from activity plans and observations, and could work out my movements from job rotas and planning. Before I was arrested, they had shown the police that the boy in question and I were never together, and certainly not alone together at any point.

That's right, before he was ever arrested, the police knew to a certainty that Keiron had had no contact with the boy on the day he allegedly abused the lad. Now, responsible police practice in that situation would be to interview the child and make sure he had the right day. The nursery staff had given Keiron an alibi for one day, but if the child weren't certain of the day or changed it to another, Keiron could still be guilty. But if the boy stuck to his story, then Keiron was innocent.

And he was in fact innocent. So in truth, Keiron should never have been arrested, never charged, never had his computer confiscated, never had to lose his job as a nanny, never paid a lawyer and above all, never had this utterly untrue allegation on his record which is precisely where it will remain for as long as Keiron walks the earth. That of course means his career in childcare is over - for life. That shouldn't have happened either.

But no, the police took months to do what they should have done in a matter of a few hours. Instead of doing the sensible thing, the thing that caused the minimum damage to Keiron, Julie and their son, they opted for the course of maximum fear, upset, depression, interruption of employment and damaged relations with friends. Eventually, they called the whole thing off, acknowledging that there was no evidence that Keiron had done anything wrong. The damage had been done. Thanks for nothing.

The lessons of l'affaire Keiron and Julie are many and it's hard to know which is most important. For example, there's the blatant abuse of police power. As demonstrated, there was no reason why any of this should have happened, but it did. And it's hard not to conclude that it happened because the police have essentially unfettered power in the area of child sexual abuse claims. It's easy to see this as a sort of demonstration project on the part of the police. "Watch yourself. See what we can do?" seems to be the unambiguous message. And sure enough, it's one Keiron received.

We go for dinner to "celebrate". Keiron is morose and says it doesn't make any difference to him. Next week, he could just as easily be accused of murder.

Or child abuse again.

Another lesson is that this dramatic overreaching by the police is all in the name of protecting children. We're all for that of course, but look at what the police were able to do literally without a scrap of evidence to support their intrusion into the supposedly private lives of three people. Certainly, we must protect children, but we must bring a measure of sanity to the process. A single, entirely uncorroborated (and in fact rebutted) allegation cannot be used by the state to damage the lives of innocent people just because it involves a child.

Which brings us to the closely related notion of due process of law. Where was Keiron's due process of law in this case, his presumption of innocence? Allow me to argue that, where there is nothing but an allegation against a person, there should be an investigation, but no negative consequences should befall the accused until some objective corroboration of the allegation arises. Is there physical or medical evidence to back up the claim? Is there another witness? There must be something apart from the complainant's say-so before an accused can have his reputation and livelihood destroyed.

Look at the power we place in the hands of single individuals if we don't impose basic concepts of due process on allegations (even those involving kids). Does it escape anyone's notice that Keiron or anyone in England can have his/her life destroyed (or nearly so) by a single word? It's not much different from what happens in a police state. People quickly come to understand what the police will act on and use that power against their "friends and neighbors" or anyone else deemed offensive to them. The records of the Stasi in East Germany are replete with exactly that - neighbor denouncing neighbor. We're in danger of replacing insults to the state with insults to children as the magic words that allow individuals to invoke the power of the state against anyone they don't happen to like.

Not long ago, I did a piece on how particular English organizations were trying to get men into childcare as an occupation. Well, Keiron did exactly that and look what happened. After reading his story, how many men will be encouraged to do likewise?

And that of course raises yet another issue and another lesson. At first I thought "it's good to see a paper like The Guardian going to bat for Keiron and Julie." After all, liberals and feminists have for so long been happy to denigrate men, making them out to be dangerous abusers of women and children, I figured it was a step in the right direction for such a traditionally misandric publication to present a man in a positive light. But is that what the article is really about? Isn't its real message to men "stay away from children?" It's certainly the lesson Keiron learned and passed on to readers. And isn't that the one feminists have been conveying since at least the 70s? Yes, feminists have always been happy to portray men as dangerous to children and women. They've always claimed that the most dangerous place for women and children was the home. Hey, feminist Joan Meier had a piece in the New York Times just a few weeks ago saying exactly that.

So in truth, whatever disguise it's wearing, The Guardian piece is just another in a long line of liberal agitprop.

The fact that Keiron managed to escape without doing time in prison is the good news. That he was only able to do so, not by his own initiative and not through anything the criminal justice system did to help him, but only through dumb luck (the kid's claims had nothing to back them up) tells us all we need to know about men and children in countries like England. It's a minefield out there and yet still men soldier on.

Thanks to Malcolm for the heads-up.

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