A world of cruelty and self-deception

Yvonne Roberts hopes the recent BBC series on
paedophiles will act as a catalyst for legal and social reform.

Halfway through the first of three
documentaries in the BBC 2 series, The Hunt for Britain’s
, I switched the TV off. On screen were two pairs
of feet – one belonging to a six-year-old girl, the other to her
father who was being filmed while he raped her. I couldn’t bear to
watch – but the image has not gone away.

Television today rarely produces
series which act as a catalyst for social change. Decades ago, it
highlighted the plight of the homeless and the cruelty rampant in
mental institutions. The result was public protest – and

Long, producer and director of The Hunt, says that he made
it, “in order to raise the debate”. Hopefully, this admirable
series will be repeated. Certainly, it forces us to question the
poverty of resources invested in detection and consider what is
required to deter those who may offend.

series, which ended last week, followed a team of 15 detectives
from the Paedophile Unit at New Scotland Yard over two years.
Paedophiles thrive on the gullibility of children and adults. Those
who watched – audience figures reached three million – were given a
necessary if harrowing education which detailed the damage done by
paedophiles who spout claptrap about “love” while displaying an
unbounded capacity to deceive.

instance, 80-year-old Wilfred Thelman insisted that he was much too
old to offend. Police seized a video of him preparing a 10-year-old
girl for buggery. In the final programme, 41-year-old Mark Hanson
was arrested on suspicion of indecently assaulting a boy. Abused as
a child, he claimed that he was not interested in buggery, “only
masturbation and oral sex” with boys aged 12. “I like their…
whole way of life. I don’t want to grow up.” Subsequently, the
police found a video of Hanson buggering a six-year-old.

later committed suicide. A detective expressed no regret. Bob Long
says we need to “create an environment in which paedophiles are
unlikely to offend in the first place”. What that requires, among a
multitude of measures, is to stop using sexual images of young
children to sell products, the strengthening of the rights of
children and long-term evidence that treatment can and does control

It is
salutary that following the first episode 250 people rang the BBC
to object, making it the second most complained about programme in
TV history. What a misdirection of ire!

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