Of Babies and Pendulums

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Back in December, I blogged this, which questioned the rationale behind the laying of criminal charges on the like of Chris Illingworth, at the centre of the "baby-swinging" scandal. I was lucky enough to have that post repeated over at The Thinkers' Podium, and Mr Illingworth himself responded to my original article as a result of that.

And so it was with great excitement that I read that the charges against Chris Illingworth had been dropped. Finally sanity prevails! As I read the article though, I was struck by the entirely human problem that Mr Illingworth now faces - restoring his life back to something resembling normality, and moving on. I don't envy him at all.

To continue in the theme of my original post, though, I wonder if this is really the pendulum of over-protecting our children swinging back, or is it merely that the case itself was so fatally flawed that it just wasn't going to fly? In other words, were the charges against Mr Illingworth dropped because the prosecution had a fit of sanity and reason prevailed, or because there just wasn't enough evidence to follow through with the whole crusade?

Mr Illingworth is understandably upset that he didn't get his day in court. He was denied his opportunity to speak his piece, to defend his choices, and to justify his own actions. That must hurt, and I can only hope that the normally rabid media at the very least offers him a podium of sorts to help him get that off his chest. The linked article also suggests that he is seeking legal advice over possibly counter-suing over his treatment during the proceedings. Obviously the stress of any court case is horrific, and by all reports he has spent time in hospital as a result of the stress of it all. I can say that I know how he feels in that matter at least.

The other thing I found interesting is that Mr Illingworth is calling for an official enquiry into the matter. While I whole-heartedly support this, I find it difficult to believe that it would happen. An enquiry into the bumbling idiots that made a mockery of his arrest, maybe, but an enquiry into why they decided he was guilty in the first place? An enquiry into why we feel we need to protect children to this increasingly over-zealous degree? An enquiry into why we wrap our children in bubble wrap on the off-chance that a dirty peadophile might be lurking at the school gate? I doubt it.

This question goes much deeper into societal norms and taboos than a single investigation. What happened to Mr Illingworth late last year is the sad culmination of a growing fear that our children are likely to be abducted, abused, or molested if allowed outside in the backyard for more than a few seconds without parental supervision.

So where does it stop? Again I ask - when does the pendulum start to swing back? And this time, I'm going to answer it. It starts to swing back when you start giving your children freedom. It starts when you stop living in fear of paedophiles. It starts when you lose the irrationality of fear, and start to critically think about crime, your child, and the likelihood of the two meeting.

As for Mr Illingworth ... sir, I salute you.


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