Is it ok to label Huntley as a 'violent serial sex offender'?

I am somewhat disappointed by this article in the Daily Telegraph

Huntley has been found guilty of a horrendous crime and deserves the full extent of punishment that the law allows.

However, as the article quite clearly states, his only previous two convictions are for driving and TV licence offences so the fact that he is labelled as a ‘violent serial sex offender’ has some rather unsettling connotations. Although there are a number of previous allegations and suspicions, that does not, in my opinion, automatically make him guilty of those.

Of course it MAY well be an accurate description and I accept that his recent conviction does raise the likelihood of this. In addition, no one will care what terms are used to describe Huntley because he has been proven to be a child murderer. My concern though is that if a ‘respected’ newspaper can sensationally represent serious allegations as fact in this case then where is the line drawn? Is everyone accused or suspected of rape a ‘violent sex offender’? I think not.

So, do Huntley’s crimes mean that he forfeits his ‘innocent until proven guilty’ rights and we can call him what we like, or is this poor, tabloid-style journalism?

I agree with you all the way.

The radio this morning has been full of people saying that once you have been “accused” it should stay on your record for life EVEN IF YOU ARE NOT CHARGED/CONVICTED.

In the emotional aftermath of any child murder case people become illogical. If you are not convicted then you should be deemed innocent, otherwise a single malicious accusation will stick with a person through their entire life even if no proof was found to result in a conviction. You cannot blight innocent lives in the hope that you MAY prevent another innocent life being taken at some point in the future.

If we are not careful we are going to have the same sort of hysteria that surrounded handguns where the measures bought in were so draconian even competition weapons were banned (many Olympic marksman have to keep their weapons abroad, which makes practise kind of difficult)- doesn’t seem to have reduced gun crime any does it.

I heard this too; whist it would possibly have helped in the Huntley case, - the person speaking on the radio this morning was suggesting that the mere suspicion of wrongdoing should be recorded - there would be terrible danger of injustice if every little hint, allegation and suspicion of wrongdoing were recorded and potentially held against you - imagine the potential for people to settle scores by reporting someone.

To be fair, though, it’s open season on him now that he’s been convicted. At least the reports are arriving now, and not mid-trial…

Yeah, ITV last night were simply saying “In April 1998 Huntley raped another girl” or something along those lines.
Chances are these allegations do have some truth behind them, but as he was not convicted, no-one can state that as fact.
that’s just the way the system works, regardless of how evil Huntley is.

I’m not going to advocate changing anything in way things work because of one loony like Huntley, least of all the principle that people are innocent until proven guilty.

And innocent means innocent, not ‘innocent but somewhat suspicious because some 15 year old girls mum said something to Plod when she was angry with her daughter and had had a bad day’.

When the politicians and the media see the populist rhetoric losing impact (as the public move onto the next Big Thing), this furore will die down.

Just imagine what would happen to the teaching profession if allegations had to remain on record. No-one would want to teach: all it would take is a few pupils to make up stories and that teacher would be out of a job. They have a difficult enough time as it is.

Well, the various girls who were raped are stating it as fact.
Maxwell was a crook - you couldn’t legally say so until he was dead - but he was still a crook.
Liberace was legally heterosexual in the eyes of British law - stating otherwise was a crime - but he was still gay.

True, and malicious allegations of rape do get made.
But the real problem here is that Huntley was repeatedly found innocent of crimes he did comit (and many other cases didn’t even make it to trial) - and that this is the norm rather than the exception in sex cases. The legal system in the UK is (IMO) rigged against the victim to a certain extent in all cases but in sex crimes the bias is overwhelming.

Still doesn’t mean it is.
Sorry, but there are cases of false accusations, as unlikely as it is in this case.

It’s as unlikely as the sun not coming up tomorrow, - I say it will - whatever a lawyer or philosopher may be able to prove, (which is why we have trial by jury - people have to try to reach “common sense” decisions in many cases)

But yes the rules are made for all cases not just this particular one - so we can’t hound people just because of past accusations. (And I wouldn’t be voicing my belief in Huntley’s guilt if he hadn’t been found clearly guilty in one case, IMO he forfeited some rights in doing what he did)

We do need, though, to make sure that where accusations are justified, the guilty are in fact found guilty in a reasonable number of cases - and that clearly isn’t happening.

so where are we heading with this discussion? Do we want legal curbs on the Press’s ability to comment on his past history after trial? Many Americans are amazed/outraged by even those restrictions on press freedom which we already have.

The problem was the failiure to prosecute Huntley for his previous crimes. The guy had been accused of serious assaults by serveral girls, all independently, and with no axe to grind.

Of course the girls who have made accusations are stating it as fact – there is no other way to make an accusation (“It’s my opinion that I was raped by Huntley” ??). Making an accusation of rape does not make the accused guilty. It should be grounds for investigation possibly leading to prosecution and in turn possibly leading to conviction. At which point you are free to label the perpetrator a rapist.

I don’t see the relevance of your comments about Maxwell and Liberace (although I would be very interested to see a cite for your assertion that it was ever illegal to call someone a homosexual in Britain). Whether or not allegations turn out to be correct should not entitle you to represent them as fact until it has been established as such in an appropriate manner. In a court of law, for example.

I have no issue with you expressing your belief. In fact I share the view that it is quite likely that Huntley is responsible for at least some previous crimes. However, in my opinion, it does not give me, you or the Daily Telegraph the right to publish that as the truth.

The problem I have is with mixing opinion and fact. In one post you say “Huntley was repeatedly found innocent of crimes he did commit” and in another you state “I wouldn’t be voicing my belief in Huntley’s guilt…” One is a statement of fact, the other of opinion, but in truth they are both really your opinion. Likewise, The Daily Telegraph has labelled someone a ‘violent serial sex offender’ while stating that he had only previously been convicted of driving and TV licence offences. Should it matter that the person in question has been convicted of other crimes?

Why is it important to distinguish between the two? People tend to believe what they read and hear. More so when the source is a ‘respectable’ one. In a case of violent sex offences if public opinion is influenced to believe allegations to be true then the ramifications for the accused are drastic, potentially ruinous. That an innocent party might be subject to such consequences is unthinkable, as has been illustrated in examples by other posters.

Articles in the national press are not the testimony of a victim or witness. Nor are they evidence of guilt. They serve to inform and to comment. Given the power of influence that the press has on public opinion it is potentially dangerous to disguise the latter as the former.

Thanks for offering a different viewpoint. However, flaws or inefficiencies in the police, CPS or legal system are just that – a topic for another thread. The question in this one is whether or not it is acceptable for the press, media or anyone to present severe public allegations as fact. Yes, no or sometimes?

I regret raising the Liberace case as it might be seen as equating homosexuality with sex crimes or wrong-doing - but the point of the case is that he went to court in Britain to “prove” that he was not gay (a newspaper had written a review highlighting the camp nature of his performance and he thought it would hurt his career). After he won it became a “fact” that he was not gay, none the less he was gay.

I’m trying to point out that a legal “fact” is often not the same thing as an actual fact, e.g. Maxwell was just as much of a crook when he was “legally” not a crook as when he was. The reality of whether those girls were raped or not is not effected by what a jury finds, do you think a rape victim thinks “oh, a court says it didn’t happen - I must have imagined it”
(Equally you could say it was a “fact” that the Birmingham six were guilty – right up to the point they were pardoned – I went around expressing my “opinion” that they were innocent – are you saying I was wrong to do that? Or that I became right at the precise moment of release?)

So the “fact” in “fact Vs opinion” isn’t really a fact in the scientific sense (hence Douglas Adam’s crack about a lawyer “proving” that black = white, and getting killed on a zebra crossing)

I would go with “sometimes” or rather “very very rarely”.
In the Maxwell case, Private Eye kept raising the allegations against him - as they did with Asil Nadir and Polly Peck and many other cases - sailing into very dodgy legal waters. They took risks, and paid big fines, but they made life harder for various villains who had protected themselves with the law.
“Constructive” law breaking has long history in Britain - but it has obvious dangers (yet another thread I think)
One problem I have is the patronising attitude many on the left in Britain have when it comes to what they perceive as “Stupid tabloid readers”.
Too many opinions I hear are just un-examined parrotings of a smug consensus view. (Not aiming this at anyone here - Dopers seem pretty good at examining their own views)
Yes there have been which hunts and vigilantism over paedophiles, and yes I’m sure much of the coverage of the Huntley trial is sensationalist and irresponsible. But there are also very real issues, e.g. why paedophiles find it so easy to re-offend - There is real human suffering at stake here and the issues need to be discussed - in this case it means examining Huntley’s history of attacks, and how the legal system, police etc dealt with them.
I think it’s valid, in this case, to drop the pretense that there is any real doubt about these accusations

Very few cases are as clear cut as this one, and the law is made (as it should be) for the other 99.99% The papers are taking a calculated risk in this case by saying he committed these acts - (IMO) because they know that it does matter that Huntley has been convicted of a cynical double child murder and has a history of lying and manipulation - it hugely effects the likelihood that the large number of other accusations about him are true.
That is the point about the sun coming up tomorrow - I can’t prove that it will, it’s just my “opinion” but my experience tells me it will, I’m not going to pretend that I have doubts that I don’t really have just to conform with a fallible, man-made system.

Perhaps my point is that you can never just trust to any system to do all your moral thinking for you -