Sunday, January 25, 2004

Roy Meadow, child snatcher
This is almost unspeakably depressing.

There was no trial; she didn't have the opportunity to demand that the terrible accusations against her be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Instead, a judge sitting in his chambers decided that, 'on the balance of probabilities', she was a killer. The interests of her surviving children must come first, and they must be taken into care. Unsurprisingly, given the loss of all her children, the mother's mind and marriage fell apart. She and her husband divorced, and he became the obvious candidate to bring up the children.

But there was a catch that the organisers of the Salem witch trials would have applauded. His solicitor, David Sterrett, explained that it wasn't enough for the witch to be condemned without trial. Her husband had to join the denigration of his ex-wife and say that she was a murderer. He didn't believe that for a moment and refused to go along with Meadow. His failure to accept the omniscience of the great man was intolerable. He was deemed unfit to look after his own children and has spent so many years in courts fighting for the right to visit them that his lawyer says he is broke and suffering from 'litigation fatigue'

Read, as they say, the whole thing. First there are the crimes actually committed: several hundred women convicted of murder on what amounts to no evidence at all, and several thousand more separated from their children. Then there's the blanket of secrecy thrown over the whole affair. And then there are the signs of what might be called the characteristic pathologies of the British overclass: The inability to catch actual criminals stimulating a compensatory lust to monitor and interfere with the population at large. The notion that we are all suspects, and that no-one without anything to hide should find this disturbing. The idea that insitutionalized compassion gives you the right to destroy lives. The use of pseudo-science to validate extreme theories. The absolute confomity to current intellectual fashion. And of course, the fact that the whole process started under the government of one party and was maintained and expanded under the government of another.