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Marking for life

This story will not help the blood pressure of our regular readership, I am sure:

A flagship database intended to protect every child in the country will be used by police to hunt for evidence of crime in a “shocking” extension of its original purpose.

How marvellous. Makes one’s heart swell with pride.

ContactPoint will include the names, ages and addresses of all 11 million under-18s in England as well as information on their parents, GPs, schools and support services such as social workers.

Tremendous. I almost want to sing “Land of Hope and Glory” (sarcasm alert).

The £224 million computer system was announced in the wake of the death of Victoria Climbié, who was abused and then murdered after a string of missed opportunities to intervene by the authorities, as a way to connect the different services dealing with children.

The death of this girl, like that of all children in the care of monstrous parents, is a terrible story but the creation of this database is not the answer. Punishment of the offenders surely is (I’ll leave it to the commentariat for what those punishments should be).

It has always been portrayed as a way for professionals to find out which other agencies are working with a particular child, to make their work easier and provide a better service for young people.

No doubt.

However, it has now emerged that police officers, council staff, head teachers, doctors and care workers will use the records to search for evidence of criminality and wrongdoing to help them launch prosecutions against those on the database – even long after they have reached adulthood.

And this, of course, is the nub of the issue. Governments down the ages, whether in the real world or in the dystopias of fiction writers, have sought to spot criminals ahead of their actually being criminals. I remember watching the Spielberg movie “Minority Report” – loosely based on the old Philip K. Dick novel – and wondered just how long it would take for NuLab or its equivalents to come up with an attempt to do stuff like this. Now it is becoming reality. But although the creators of such databases may like to kid themselves that they are protecting the little ones, in truth, they are placing dangerous power in the hands of state officials that can be used against people for the rest of their lives.

I am glad the Daily Telegraph is creating a stink about this. Question: will the Tories pledge to shut this database down? (Cough, nervous laughter).

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11 comments to Marking for life

  • The Tories aren’t interested in closing this kind of totalitarianism down, they’re interested in more of the same!

  • From the Wikipedia entry for Victoria Climbié:

    It is suspected that Kouao [her great aunt and guardian] started abusing Climbié soon after her arrival in the country, and the abuse worsened when Kouao moved in with Carl Manning. Up to her death, the police, the social services department of many local authorities, the National Health Service, the NSPCC, and local churches all had contact with her, and noted the signs of abuse. However, in what the judge in the trial following Victoria’s death described as “blinding incompetence”, all failed to properly investigate the abuse and little action was taken. She died in February 2000, aged eight.

    The desire for the Contactpoint database is justified by the Government as a direct response to the problematic death of Victoria Climbié. However, the cause of her death had nothing to do with a lack of knowledge of abuse, and associated risk to her wellbeing, by the appropriate Government agencies: only their lack of competence in doing sufficient about it.

    Thus, we have an (all too common) example of double government incompetence: an original failure compounded by taking the wrong corrective action.

    Not only does this wrong corrective action waste resources that could be better spent elsewhere; we now have one of the usual wrong government tertiary actions arising therefrom: the overzealous and misdirected application of unwarranted law. Here this is to further surveil and oppress those who are, in the vast majority, law abiding on the issue of existence (the children) and bringing them up (their parents).

    Is it any surprise that the police, the law and the government fall ever further into disrepute.

    Best regards

  • This story will not help the blood pressure of our regular readership, I am sure

    I don’t think it will surprise many of us either.

    Seriously, though, don’t mention blood pressure. The government will feel the need to further intervene.

  • nostalgic

    Raise blood pressure? Umm yes a bit. What will raise the blood pressure is when the incompetents running the database manage to lose all or part of it. With the track record of other databases this is almost bound to happen.

  • And the people who were rightly claiming that this is the sort of monstrosity that would result when the underlying legislation was being proposed were probably derided by our worses as not caring about the children. (I would submit that you cannot care about the children if your actions bequeath them a world with a decreased rule of law.)

    There’s also the ghastly joined-up “ContactPoint” [sic] — this sort of GDF concatenation of words is exactly what Orwell described in his essay on Newspeak.

  • I second what Nigel said.

    Pedantry Alert! “Minority Report” was a short story, not a novel.

  • Oh look a new hacker target is being built.

  • This will be the target of paedophile rings worldwide,a most dangerous data base to make.
    Strangely the government makes no mention of benefit farming,where children from third world countries are sold to benefit recipients in the UK.

  • jc

    Wonderful – another increase in the chaff-to-wheat ratio! Ditto Nigel’s post.

  • Rob

    “Not only does this wrong corrective action waste resources that could be better spent elsewhere”

    It depends on your point of view whether this is a waste of resources. If the intention is to protect children, then it is a waste of resources. However, if the intention is to further and massively extend the power of the state by piggy-backing on the convenient, and atrocious murder of a child, it is a marvellous investment.

  • Patrick

    The really funny thing is that it probably won’t actually help the police do anything. Let’s face it: all this information will find up being a collossal mress to sift through. All the pertinent information is available, often in a local phonebook.

    At some point, a government essentially just makes records and grabs power that it can’t even use, simply to have some theoretical power and for no other reason.