There is a principle in law that once people have served their sentence, they should be rehabilitated, but it isn’t an absolute principle – there are a number of agreed exceptions. The most obvious example is that sex offenders have to remain on the register for a period, and are, in general, barred from certain roles, such as working with children – often for life.
So there’s nothing particularly exceptional about a demand from some quarters that an individual should not return to a high profile rôle where he or she acts as a rôle model after committing certain types of crime. And if that opinion is held as widely as it seems to be, then there is certainly a case to be made for legislation to enshrine that in law. It’s something that I’d support, and something which has a great deal of relevance to the current case attracting attention.
Changing the law would enable proper consideration to be given to trying to draw up a set of definitions and rules which govern which jobs and which crimes would be covered, or at the very least creating a ‘due process’. It’s probably impossible to arrive at a precise definition which covers all circumstances, but the usual way around that is to give discretion to the judges when sentencing those found guilty. That approach also allows for the possibility of appeal and review.
The alternative to making it part of law, and allowing the judge to decide, is that individual cases become the subject of individual extra-judicial decisions, driven by the media and public anger. No matter how much I agree with the stance taken by so many in the particular case, I can’t help but wonder whether this isn’t closer to being a form of mob rule than the application of due process.
It is, of course, much easier for politicians to join in the hue and cry – in what is close to the original sense of the phrase – than it is to initiate complex and probably contentious legislation; but isn’t initiating legislation when required what they are there for? And isn't joining in the hue and cry effectively abdicating their responsibility to set proper rules?