Ian Huntley was today convicted of the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman and given two life sentences. The two Soham schoolgirls were 'enticed' into Huntley's home, where they both perished. Summing up and sentencing Huntley, Mr Justice Moses told him:
The horror of knowing what probable fate awaits you
"One of these girls died knowing her friend had been attacked or killed by you."
Watching the hostile press conference given by Chief Constable David Westwood of Humberside Police this afternoon, it is clear that whilst there may have been some failing on the part of Humberside Police operational proceudres, the major problem seems to hinge upon the conflict in public policy between the right to privacy, guaranteed by the Data Protection Act, and the retention and use of information which may be made in order to make employment and other police checks, specially in cases such as Huntley where he had never been convicted of an offence, although it seems he had been repeatedly suspected (and on one or two occasions, accused) of crimes of a sexual nature.
However much the journalists at this press conference may wish to make it seem as if major failings or negligence on the part of Humberside Police could, if avoided, have prevented these horrific murders (because Huntley would never have been able to gain employment as a school caretaker, in the first place) the reality is much more complex. I believe that it will be no easy matter to frame changes to legislation to serve the dual purposes of enhancing the protection of vulnerable people such as children, the elderly or mentally disadvantaged, etc, and ensuring that individual rights are not unnecessarily infringed. Journalists would be the first to want to investigate cases where a police force had overstepped their legal authority in carrying out an investigation or misused information they may have held from time to time about any individual.