There are some news stories that despite making the headlines never really catch my attention. All the stuff about the Olympics overspend for example. Even all the Northern Ireland stories over the year have never really struck a chord with me at all. Maybe with the Olympics the speed-skating and pole vaulting all just seems so far off into the future and also I have no way of knowing if the money made in 2012 is going to make all these billions being spent actually worth it. And as for Northern Ireland, I've never really known the history behind it all and for a while there was a depressing roatation to the cycle of news in the area. (A cycle which has of course now been broken apparently, not that I'd know too much about it).
Another regular news item that makes the headlines and always has me turning away is paedophilia, possibly the ultimate taboo subject. And the recent Chris Langham case has been no exception as I hadn't been following it at all. It must be the most painful and frustrating experience to have a loved one or one's own self being the victim in such a case. And again, similar to Northern Ireland but in a much more intense way, it is probably the sheer depressing state of some of the cases that is too much for me to take.
But a recent BBC news article regarding the Langham case did strike me.
First of all though, I don't think we should even be able to comment on any of this. I strongly believe in the concept of "innocent until proven guilty" and whatever comes of this case, Mr Langham will be tarred with a very strong brush. I think there was a leading snooker player who was accused of rape. He was dragged through the courts at the same time as his name was dragged through the mud. He was found completely innocent of all charges and yet the unfair suspicion no doubt remains amonst some quarters. By all means let's throw books at people when we have to, but let's at least make sure we are hitting the right people when we do so.
But that's a separate issue. The news story that caught my eye was the "actor did not want paedophile tag" line.
To me, that line of defence is very similar to the "I was just curious" approach taken by drug users or one-time homosexuals (not that I'm suggesting the second one is or in anyway should be illegal). But if someone tries cocaine once or sleeps with someone of the same sex once does that make them a druggie or a homosexual? And following on the logic, does someone who downloads child porn necessarily make them a paedophile?
For weeks I had been convinced in my thinking that they were going to throw a very large book at Mr Langham when this case was all over with. But now I'm not so sure. Of course, he may be as guilty as sin for all I know with the downloading being the tip of the iceberg, but if the jurors (assuming there are any) manage to resist the knee-jerk reaction here there may be a subtler and more complex debate to be had.
In a similar way as to how we don't want to lock away people for good who have a few milligrams of coke, perhaps a similar approach could be taken for the downloading of illegal files. There does after all seem to be a strong villification reserved for the downloaders whereas those who actually create the images and files seem to escape the majority of the public's glare.
And yet, could it not be so simple to track such people? Why pull the leaves from an unhealthy tree when we can just knock the whole thing out the ground? I imagine there must be a trail that can be followed back to the original source of what some (I suspect many) people are illegally viewing.
Even a sytem whereby people's IP addresses are logged on a national database could work and then, in conjunction with internet service providers, noone is allowed net access without the authorities knowing who you are. Then there is a visible footprint of who was where and when and, crucially, who is responsible for what is on the internet.
Of course, there is a perfectly reasonable civil liberties argument to be raised at this point. But given a similar system works so effectively with cars, I don't see why something couldn't be set up for computers given the levels of fraud, paedophilia and people smuggling that goes on online is much, much more serious than a few speeding Ferraris.
As I say, I have no earthly idea what the right result will be for Chris Langham. But I just can't help but feel we're frying the wrong fish.
Evening Briefing: Political Casualties
20 minutes ago