“Why Was Internet Predator Not Jailed?” thunders the front page lead in today’s Daily Mail, in one of those instances where no other paper is taking an interest, thus pointing up the faith of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre in his ability to make changes in sentencing merely through the presence of his mighty organ. And, as ever, the answer is buried in the Mail’s own story.
We know what readers are expected to think from the sub-headings: “Timothy Storey, 34, convicted of 8 child sex charges, handed 'rehab' order ... Persuaded girls as young as 12 to film themselves naked over the web ... Threatened to tell girls' parents if they tried to end the vile abuse ... MPs blast 'appaling' sentence, case referred to Attorney General”. So what happened?
“By posing online as a privately-educated teenager, [Storey] persuaded girls as young as 12 to film themselves naked ... [and would] threaten to tell the girls’ parents if they tried to end the vile abuse ... Despite being convicted of eight child sex charges, he was given only a three-year rehabilitation order”. As Sir Sean nearly said, I think we got the point.
So who are the MPs voicing their dismay at the sentence? David Burrowes is one, and to no surprise at all, also leaping aboard the bandwagon is self-promotion practitioner supreme Priti Patel, who misses no chance to get tough on, well, anything. Storey, who lives in Peckham, is, equally to no surprise, not a constituent of either MP. Whether they represent any victim’s families is not told.
Which means that’s probably a no, as well. So why no custodial sentence? The Mail helpfully – if only belatedly – explains: “Under the latest guidelines, the maximum penalty for inciting a child under 13 to engage in sexual activity is 14 years behind bars. This is reduced substantially if there is no physical contact”. There was, indeed, as everything took place online, no physical contact.
Burrowes and Ms Patel said this was not right, but the judiciary can only work within the guidelines they have been given, and with the law as it stands. Voters might think more of both MPs if they were to now pursue changes to that law, which I suspect they are not. And then we come to the reason for the Mail’s attack, which is a non-sequitur of the most basic kind.
“The MP [Burrowes] has backed the Mail’s campaign for automatic blocks on online porn unless adults opt out”. Fine. Now explain how, exactly, a block on “online porn” would get in the way of two people communicating via social media. Or would the Dacre doggies like to propose some kind of Orwellian surveillance law to curtail personal liberty on the off-chance that such communications are not to their liking?
The Daily Mail. Not making sense under the most basic examination – as usual.
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