Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A parent's worst nightmare.

The Indian physician and author Deepak Chopra wrote; ‘There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.’ Although you can’t fully insulate the innocent, and maybe you shouldn’t, recent events can barely fail to thrust into an ever sharper focus, the delicate balance parents face in policing those doorways.

It was a wearyingly familiar sight, hope palpably draining from the faces of the tireless ranks of volunteers and rescue professionals as the search for April Jones made its sad, semantic shift to a murder inquiry. The only suspect, Mark Bridger has now been remanded in custody, to appear on January 11th, charged with April’s abduction, murder, and attempting to pervert the course of justice through the assumed concealment of her body. The painstaking process of evidence gathering will continue, as the world watches on, helpless but for empathy, pondering how to permit our kids the adventure of independence, whilst protecting their passage through childhood.

For me, those grainy CCTV images of little James Bulger being lead away by the hand linger long in my conflicted consciousness, making objectivity unlikely when my daughter bemoans her perceived absence of personal freedoms. I trust her, it’s everyone else that bothers me. Statistics surrounding child abduction are not absolute, however in May of this year the Sun claimed one goes missing every three minutes. These figures naturally feature runaways, and those that return home, often unreported, yet it is believed that around 150 children are taken by strangers every year in the UK. Perhaps the lasting legacy of the unimaginable limbo in which Kate and Gerry McCann now exist, is an increased awareness of abduction when navigating the daily dilemmas of family logistics. One wrong decision might be all it takes.

Although no surprise to some, the snowballing revelations surrounding the late Sir Jimmy Savile have sent further shivers down the spine of a society at pains to protect its most vulnerable. If even half what is alleged proves accurate, we face another collective failure to have missed the signals, and maybe worse.

Widespread suspicion of Savile’s sexual preferences seems evident, but as a leading establishment entity, not to mention a well-connected and commercially significant figure, this was an inconvenient truth. Many in the media would not readily bite the hand that feeds, whatever the dirt under its finger nails. Even some of Savile’s prolific charity work can now be deemed uncomfortably cynical, given that many of the victims of his alleged abuse were reportedly recruited from children’s homes.

That his own family have consigned his headstone to landfill is as close to a conviction as it comes. This posthumous punishment seems the only suitable sanction, since the called-for stripping of his knighthood is apparently not applicable. Such honours are deemed to exist solely for the duration of a person’s live, naturally expiring on death. That said, the question remains as to how the honours system conferred the knighthood, potentially dignifying the actions of an abuser, against what now appears to have been a background of serious and widespread allegations.

 If children embody hope, walking symbols of the latent potential of an unwritten future, then taking the life, or indeed the innocence of a child, is the bitter final refuge of one whose hope has gone. The final betrayal of the victims would be our collective failure to confront not only those directly responsible, but also those who turned a blind eye.

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