Hanging is too good for ’em…

19 Dec
Convicted sex offender Ian Watkins

Convicted sex offender Ian Watkins

Earlier today Ian Watkins, a man previously known for his singing and song-writing in a popular rock band Lostprophets, was sentenced for his part in a series of heinous crimes of the worst magnitude – the attempted rape, and conspiracy to rape a baby. Not an adult woman, or an underage adolescent, but a baby.

He has been sentenced to 29 years in jail, with a further six years on license. He will be eligible for parole approximately 2/3 of the way into his sentence – so in theory he will be off the streets for the next 20 years. The mothers of two of his victims, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of their innocent offspring, who were complicit in the set up, have been jailed for 14 and 17 years each.

Watkins has also pleaded not guilty to rape and reports came out today that he had planned to issue a statement to the media saying the whole experience had been “mega Lolz” – an expression which was supposedly used on some of the band’s t-shirts. He is alleged to have decided to plead guilty in order to avoid a trial – though claiming he was out of his head on drugs at the time and has limited memory of events. So stoned that he was able to write emails and texts, make videos and encrypt the data on his computers so it couldn’t be read by anyone else.

The whole affair has taken his fanbase by surprise (well, those fans that weren’t already supplying their children for his use it seems). And it has raised a number of the usual (and understandable) emotive responses within the wider community.

His bandmates made the decision to announce the end of Lostprophets on 1 October via their Facebook page (now closed). I took a look at that post a few weeks ago and I was shocked by the number of ignorant and/or judgemental comments being made by users following their posts – which also pleaded for anyone with knowledge of other abuses to come forward. The number of people labelling the entire band and claiming that the other members must have known what Watkins was up to was phenomenal (in a bad way). Much the same as with the response to the Jimmy Savile investigation (I’m going to return to Savile in a later blog) there is an automatic assumption from certain quarters of the public that if a person commits a crime then everyone around them must also be aware of that crime and/or their proclivities.

On that point I’m sure the vast majority of us have no idea what our work colleagues are up to – unless it directly impacts on their work life: they come in smelling of drink, can’t function, keep making mistakes, go running off to make phonecalls etc. And it wouldn’t be the first time that friends or family members or neighbours have been prosecuted for a crime and those around them express bafflement – loved ones carrying out affairs, murders, stealing etc. etc. And just because one hears rumours about an individual, it doesn’t mean that those rumours should be automatically accepted as truth either, because sometimes folk get the wrong end of the stick, are being cruel/funny or simply malicious.

As it happens, I know that I once worked with a convicted sex offender. I had heard a few rumours that he had propositioned some of the teenagers working at the hotel I was based in, but there was never a great deal of detail and being an ‘odd sort’ anyway, I never knew quite whether to believe them at the time, and I certainly didn’t have anything to go on that I could actually report to any authority. I worked with him in 1999, he was convicted in 2004 for activities in 2001/2. Disturbingly he already had a conviction for gross indecency with a child dating back to 1990 – a conviction which should possibly have prevented him from working in a hotel environment where children could be found.

Watkins crimes though are unprecedented. In the words of the Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Doyle “The investigation uncovered the most disturbing child abuse evidence I have seen in my 28 years as a police officer.”
The scale was reportedly such that Watkins held over 27 terrabytes of storage on encrypted hard-drives, including images that Watkins himself had created.

It is of little surprise then that we all have an opinion on the outcome of the case, and what should happen to Watkins as a result, and indeed the limits of punishment within the United Kingdom’s judicial system. Even by today’s lax moral standards, there are few who would argue that baby raping is an acceptable practice (although according to some reports. There are a number of fan pages and groups still in operation, with some of the moderators struggling to accept the outcome.

One Ian Watkins page on Facebook stated (on 1 November): “Guys it is a sad day till today for all of prophetis around the world as the band announced breakup.I know its a sad day for all the fans thinkin of what he did nd I nid nt remind that.It only makes sense why ppl hate him nd I wud hte him thousand tyms more than anyone if he is proven guilty.But isnt almost evry celebrity around the world r blamed with the same charges???so until proven otherwise I wud still be an lostprophets fan forever. ”

I’m pretty sure that not almost every celebrity around the world is “blamed with the same charges”. In fact, I can’t think of a single celebrity who has also been accused of trying to put their penis in multiple infants while filming them. Maybe I’m wrong on that count? Curiously the fan is unable to come to terms with the horrific nature of the crimes and seems to be glossing over the accusations utterly. They also cannot separate the idea of being a fan of the music of Lostprophets with Watkins as an individual. Two very different things.
Of course, the other band members are going to struggle in future to distance themselves from music which they built their popularity on and which provided them a significant revenue stream, and to some extent why should they? There are many pieces of art (visual, musical, literary) which have been composed by people who have committed unthinkable acts. Where do we draw the line? Love the work, not the worker. Is that possible?

Having never knowingly listened to their music I can’t comment on that aspect, but of more interest to this discussion are the responses that others posted to that (idiotic) statement:

“now, he should kill himself asap”
“Your words mean shit you kiddy fiddling bastard, If I ever saw you in the street, I’d kick your head in. Do mankind a service and kill yourself worthless SCUM”
“How can you say that???? He is a SICK twisted, disgusting, VILE FREAK who should be bloody shot in the head in my opinion and left to rot!!!!!!!!!!!”

After the verdict was announced today I read a number of comments that were in keeping with the opinions expressed above. Many confessing themselves to be parents have vouched that if it was their child he had interfered with, they would attempt to kill Watkins themselves. He is on 15 minute suicide watch because he is felt to be at risk. Would killing himself be better for the victims? Would it really be a punishment for a man who has voiced his desire to push himself to extremes?

In prison sex offenders and paedophiles often become targets from the prison staff and other inmates. In the UK we don’t seem to segregate them in quite the same way as some facilities in the US. As much as I believe in punishment, I don’t think it appropriate to allow them to become the punch bags of other incarcerated people, and I worry about the death penalty in these instances.

Watkins is serving a 35 year sentence based on the two known victims. The judge is treating him as a serial offender and it is clear from the amount of data sifted through that there are other victims out there. If we dispose of Watkins and others like him, we only serve to prevent the full truth about incidents from being exposed and we rob other victims of their moment of justice and potential time in the stand to face their abusers and see them face the consequences of their actions. International investigations are ongoing via Interpol and the US authorities – if more victims come out around the world, Watkins may well be in prison until he dies (of natural causes). And that is how it should be. Income from his royalties and estate should be used to pay compensation for the victims, much as has been done in the Saville investigation.

I find it hard to reconcile my own sense of morality with the particulars of this case – and my natural attitude of no capital punishment is sorely tested. I do find it poor that the tax payer will now be paying a fortune to keep this individual alive in relative comfort. I’m sorely tempted to say that in this instance the basic human right to life should be preserved, but that because of the nature and scale of his actions he should be chemically castrated in order to prevent him from ever doing anything like that again – because while I think some people can change, I would have severe doubts in this instance.

There is something about the perpetration of crimes against children that riles the conscience of the masses and encourages them to seek a very brutal and personal revenge. You will hear advocates of clemency in almost any other crime – murderers are excused, burglars are hailed as heroes (see the outpouring on the announcement of Ronnie Biggs’ death today) and there are some very uncomfortable views expressed about adult rape, but a child is taught to trust authority, and a baby is utterly innocent – does not know right and wrong, and to to rob them of that is to rob them of life.

Watkins should be punished – properly punished. But also protected because these two children are not the only victims.

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One Response to “Hanging is too good for ’em…”

  1. Brittius December 19, 2013 at 2:14 am #

    Reblogged this on Brittius.com.

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