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The lessons of Soham inspired by the spirit of Salem



THE authorities in Salem, Massachussets did not have a computer database of alleged and suspected offences back in 1692, but we can imagine how useful they would have found one. It would not just have been 20 citizens executed for witchcraft; it would have been half the town. Replace the “witch” with “sex offender” and 17th-century Salem has more than a little in common with 21st-century Britain. The murder of Soham schoolgirls Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells was a despicable crime, for which former caretaker Ian Huntley has properly been jailed for life. But the fallout from the Bichard report into the Soham case threatens our liberty by putting us at the mercy of rumour and false allegation. The nub of Sir Michael Bichard’s report is this: Huntley would have been prevented from taking up his job as a caretaker at Soham and, therefore, from murdering Jessica and Holly, if the Humberside Police had only bothered to keep proper records and been prepared to share those records with potential employers. For his failure to do this, David Westwood, the Chief Constable of Humberside, has been ruined. He has been suspended by the Home Secretary and vilified by the general public. Yet there was a good reason why Mr Westwood and his staff did not go about telling all and sundry that Huntley was a vicious sex offender. Until the conclusion of the Soham trial in December, Huntley had never been convicted of any sex offence…

The Times