Volume 95, Issue 44

Tuesday, November 20, 2001
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Life outside the penalty box

Editorial Cartoon

Editorial Board 2001-2002

Life outside the penalty box

In life, much like hockey, it is common for a player to serve time in the penalty box and then be set free to finish the game.

The question is, should a person's penalty statistics appear on a trading card right next to their face?

Police recently released the profile of a man deemed to be a "dangerous offender," who has taken up residence in London.

The offender, who has been convicted of various crimes including sexual assault and assault with a deadly weapon, has been publicly identified to protect the community-at-large, police say.

The publication of the offender's criminal past and his present whereabouts appear to be a fair and necessary part of releasing a potentially dangerous offender.

Yet, it may also be the right of the that same individual to start a new life, free from bias.

People who have committed multiple crimes are released from institutions on a regular basis and only some of these offenders' profiles are made public.

What criteria makes it fair to tarnish one person's chances of re-entering society, while permitting other criminals to walk virtually unknown in our community?

Although he already has a few strikes on his scorecard, there is still the possibility this offender has come to London to mend his ways. Given this particular man's past, the safety of the community must come first at the expense of this individual's right to privacy.

While he is allowed to start over, he cannot be fully forgiven for his crimes. His actions have ruined many lives and, if police see the possibility for further crimes, the community must be warned.

Some members of the community should especially be alerted of this offender's presence. For instance, the London Memorial Boys and Girls club happens to be located in the immediate vicinity of where this man is staying.

At the same time, a media spectacle and "scare campaign" will solve nothing.

Society has the right to be informed and the media has a duty to serve their communities. The public has a right to know, but the media must not use scare tactics and shock headlines to generate fear and interest in readers and viewers.

Fairness and a level-headed approach must rule the day in order to raise awareness and avoid fear-mongering.

If he becomes nothing more than a media pariah and a social outcast, all hopes of rehabilitation will be lost.

This man has served his time in the penalty box of life. Now it's time for him to return to the ice.

The public, police and media will be watching and hoping he can mend his ways and eventually become a safe and productive member of our community.

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Copyright The Gazette 2001