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Day: February 17, 2011

Do you need to be a liberal to be a Lib Dem?

I ask this question due to many members of the Lib Dem party not holding core liberal values. They do you believe that everyone is equal and they do not believe in human rights. I know several Lib Dem members who are raging feminists and believe that women are the superior gender and should be judged as such. They are not fighting for equality but they want to redress the balance of history. Not sure if they also believe that white people should be slaves to black people for a couple of centuries as well as whenever I bring that up they say I’m being stupid and extreme – even though it’s actually the exact same premise but using racism instead of sexism as it’s backdrop but ho hum.

Then the human rights issue. There are some that believe that once you have engaged in criminal activity then you lose your human rights. This will always be a grey area as we all have slightly different Points of View on this. I myself believe that even if you have infringed someone elses human rights then you should still have yours. It’s not a popular opinion and I’m sure if something bad happened to me or a family member I’d have urges want whoever had done a terrible act on them or me (murder/rape etc…) hung, drawn and quartered. I suspect though this isn’t unusual. So as it stands I sit outside looking in and can voice a balanced opinion.

For example if a burglar goes into someone elses property then I see that as a grey area. Should the burglar be shot dead a la in the Tony Martin case? No they shouldn’t unless it was in legitimate self-defence. Should the owner of a property be able to beat up a burglar whose broken into their home? On that I am slightly more open-minded. Getting a kicking when in that situation isn’t excessive. So if a home owner caught a burglar and gave them a kicking before the police came then I’d possibly turn a blind eye to that. Balancing the human rights of two people with two different plans in direct confrontation to one another though.

I think/hope I’ve proved that there is no hard and fast answer to this. If you believe in Human Rights to any degree you’ll know there are occasions where someone’s rights are in direct conflict to another person’s. This is not easy.

So on to the big debate that sprouted up yesterday – the sex offenders register. Should sex offenders ever be allowed off the sex offenders register? Do they deserve a chance to be declared rehabilitated or once they’ve committed a crime then they have to live by different rules for the rest of their lives? Is that against their Human Rights or has the fact they’ve done the crime mean that they don’t deserve some Human Rights for the rest of their time on this Earth?

For me the answer is no. If we do not believe in rehabilitation then why bother? Just lock up anyone who is guilty of a crime and throw away the key as it were. Like anything there are different levels of crime and different levels of people committing the crime. There are some bad bad people out there who will always be a danger to others. They should not – and never will – come off the sex offenders register. There are those whose crimes are one-time mistakes. Look at former Chelsea coach Graham Rix who slept with a 15 year-old he met in a club, she said she was 18. He went to jail over this. Some may say that is deservedly so but if someone tells you they are of legal age and are in the night club then do you really need proof of ID before sleeping with someone? Are young people who sleep with slightly younger partners who are under the age of consent really sex offenders? You could have two Year 11 students sitting their GCSE’s and one might be of legal age the other not – is the older one really performing a sex crime?

Last year I read of the case of Tony Washington. I implore anyone with ten minutes to spare to read the full report behind the link. For those who don’t have the time or don’t care the short version is he was convicted of having sex with his sister. He is on the sex offenders list for life. If that’s all you need to know then so be it but there is a whole lot more to the story. Like most crimes there is something deeper rooted behind the crime. This young man is not a danger to anyone and never was or never will be. Yet his whole life has been shaped and there is nothing he can do about it.

The line between right and wrong can seem to clear and distinct but sometimes it isn’t.

On the case of sex offenders and whether they should never have their case reviewed, that to me is illiberal. I believe in second chances and that some people can change. Those who do not and are a risk to society should stay under the strict laws that govern not only sex offenders but also anyone else who is a risk to the general public. However every case and every person is different. It should be up to trained individuals to decide each case, not one blanket law that encompasses everyone. That is not fair and it is not proportionate.

Some will say that the victim has to live with it for the rest of their lives so why shouldn’t the perpetrator of the crime? Well people who commit these crimes do have to live with it for the rest of their lives. They have the memories and many have the deep remorse. Nothing will ever change that. Victims though are free to move on with their lives whereas those who commit these acts are not – even when they have paid their debt to society.

I know this is not an easy one folks but I believe in the individual and that individuals deserve second chances in life. Make the criteria strict. Make sure the onus is on being 100% sure that the person in question is no longer any risk to the general public but they deserve that chance. That is the liberal way.

The way I see it is that liberals believe that we are all unique but that we are all equal. We all make mistakes in life, some a lot worse than others but some small ones may have ramifications beyond comprehension. Look at every case individually and assess everyone based on the evidence in front of them. That is the best way and that is the liberal way. Do not cast everyone with the same dye as that is authoritarian, which is distinctly illiberal.

So to answer the question in the title. No you don’t but it sure does help. Many policies the Liberal Democrat Party put forward has liberalism at its fundamental core. You generally join a political party because you believe in its goals and aspirations. If you don’t then you have to ask yourself why do you? Yes you won’t agree with everything a political party but when it comes to the core elements that you disagree with then it seems to me as though there might be a problem.

Still what do I know? (not a lot) and with that – this ramble is over.

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