I haven’t enjoyed writing this piece. The subject is important but distressing. It has also made me angry.
There are two sides to every coin. Yesterday I was with young Bertie my grandson and I will be with him again today. He is a great bundle of joy who makes me smile and feel happy. I am not alone. Young children make us laugh and remind us how simple life can be. But, there are others who only have evil designs on the young and impressionable.
Today’s piece is about evil, pure evil. It is very usual for me to comment on items in the immediate news. I prefer to reflect, and I like to try and place them in my own experience to give them a context. Today, it is different. I have no context.
This week, in the UK two paedophiles were sentenced having been convicted of the most atrocious of all crimes. Last weekend a Pakistani man was sentenced to death for killing and raping a 7-year-old girl, and earlier in January, a doctor to the US gymnastic team was sentenced to 175 years in prison for assaulting young girls.
Unfortunately, I need to give some details before I can comment. I feel sick as I reread what I report.
Case 1: Barry Bennell was a football coach at two professional clubs and used his position of trust between 1979 and 1991 to abuse 12 boys aged eight to 15. He is already in prison after previously being convicted of child abuse on three occasions. He received jail sentences in the UK and in the US in 1995, 1998 and 2015.
Judge Clement Goldstone QC said Bennell was ‘sheer evil’ and ‘to those boys you appeared as a god… in reality you were the devil incarnate. You stole their childhoods and their innocence.
The judge said Bennell, who worked at Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra, was ‘hell-bent on abusing boys, and left a trail of psychological devastation. If the boys tried to resist you convinced them their football careers would suffer.’
He has been jailed for 31 years at Liverpool Crown Court for 50 counts of child sexual abuse.
Case 2: Cambridge graduate Matthew Falder, 29, admitted 137 charges – including rape – against 46 people, and a “warped and sadistic” paedophile who blackmailed victims and shared abuse tips and images on the dark web has been jailed for 32 years.
At Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Philip Parker QC labelled Falder an “internet highwayman” with a “lust to control”.
Phil Mackie, in court for BBC news (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-43114471) writes
In 25 years as a reporter covering countless trials, I have never heard evidence so sickening.
Matthew Falder never showed any emotion during the three-and-a-half days of sentencing at Birmingham Crown Court, but for the brave few victims who faced their tormentor during sentencing, it was hard to contain their tears.
Hardened investigators were also visibly upset as some of the evidence was read out. Those who suffered extreme abuse and degradation say they are still suffering the impact of what he made them do, but it’s hoped that the knowledge he’s behind bars will begin to ease their nightmares.
Case 3: In Pakistan this week, a Pakistani court sentenced a serial killer to death after finding him guilty of killing eight children, including a 7-year-old girl whose rape and murder drew nationwide condemnation and triggered violent protests. Mohammad Imran, 24, pleaded guilty during a five-day trial.
Imran was arrested in January, two weeks after authorities say he raped and killed 7-year-old Zainab Ansari and threw her body into a garbage dump in the city of Kasur. He also admitted three other similar rapes and murders.
Case 4: Finally, in the USA last month, the paedophile doctor, Larry Nasser who abused Olympic gymnasts will die in prison after he was jailed for up to 175 years. He was accused of molesting almost 160 young women and girls in America, including four-time Olympic gold medallist Simone Biles.
Those are basic, chilling facts and the only glimmer of hope is that these four men have been arrested and sentenced and their menace has been removed. They have caused me many and complex emotions.
I am deeply saddened when I read the case details and the sympathy I feel for the victims and their families could never be properly expressed. I feel disgust that these men can gain any satisfaction from their activities. Literally, I cannot understand them.
And there is anger. There is an anger towards them but a deeper anger at myself, as an ordinary member of society. I feel we have let down the victims.
It is a trait in all these cases that the perpetrators are highly manipulative and certainly in Falder’s case highly intelligent. He is a Cambridge graduate. They work in a complex sub-society and work just as hard to cover their tracks. It is as if they know of the deep evil of their deeds. They are not easy to stop.
But what sort of society have we created that allows this to happen?
We can never blame the children. Children learn by copying their friends, their parents, and their mentors. As they grow they absorb from every stimulus and they learn fast. We need to be able to give them every possible stimulus and social media is one of those. We will never be able to keep them off social media forever and so we need to find ways educate, warn, and support the children.
We can tell them not to be so trusting and they need to be more careful. Probably true, but sad. Paedophilia is not new and of course, my parents were always concerned about my safety, but the sophistication of grooming, the tools available and to be honest the level of evil have all increased. Police around the world recognise this and in the Falder case, there was global, international cooperation as they investigated his activities across the dark web.
As a society, we may have a grudging approval for an audacious robbery. We may sigh when we hear of another teenage stabbing, but society must condemn, absolutely and loudly, any paedophilic behaviour because nothing strains the very ethos of a society than this behaviour.
The penalties need to be increased. There needs to be a real deterrent. One of these men was sentenced to death – not a penalty I normally agree with – but all the other three will hopefully die in prison.
We must pitch all our human and financial resources against this vile habit.
We might never stop paedophilia, but we need to look at ourselves and our societies and remove this curse.