Mail caught out on ‘playground paedophiles’


12:18 pm - October 29th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    


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The Daily Mail yesterday ran a story by journalist Laura Clark headlined: Parents banned from watching their children in playgrounds… in case they are paedophiles

It said:

Parents are being banned from playing with their children in council recreation areas because they have not been vetted by police.
Mothers and fathers are being forced to watch their children from outside perimeter fences because of fears they could be paedophiles.
Watford Council was branded a ‘disgrace’ yesterday after excluding parents from two fenced-off adventure playgrounds unless they first undergo criminal record checks.

Children as young as five will instead be supervised by council ‘play rangers’ who have been cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau.
Councillors insist they are merely following Government regulations and cannot allow adults to walk around playgrounds ‘unchecked’.

This prompted over 400 comments, including some gems such as:

The trouble with England now is there are too many culture’s, too many religions and too many different laws. Which culture’s laws do we follow.
Oh how i miss Henry and Queen Vic and what about Elizabeth 1
R Pearce, Fort Lauderdale, Florida,

Naturally a Daily Mail ‘PC gone mad’ story always has something that does not quite check out.

Watford Council released a statement in response:

Contrary to reports in the media, Watford Borough Council has not banned parents from public parks and playgrounds in the town!

We have simply reiterated that the fully supervised play sessions we run at our adventure playgrounds – Harebreaks and Harwoods – are for children aged 5 -15 years old, and that parents/carers of children and young people who visit these play sessions are not able to stay on site with their children during play sessions. This reduces any potential risks to children and ensures they are able to play freely.

The adventure playground play sessions are fully supervised and we employ CRB checked staff to run the facilities in the best way they see fit.

This is no different to other fully supervised facilities, like schools, playgroups or nurseries – where adults are not allowed to stay.

Hat-tip to Angry Mob and MailWatch

Update: The Mayor releases a statement pointing out media inaccuracies:

What has happened is that at Harwoods a handful of parents have been staying on, not just dropping their kids off. After a number of incidents, staff that run the facility felt that the presence of these parents was hampering their ability to supervise the kids properly – who remember are engaging in risky play and do need to be given full attention. They’ve now brought the site in line with Harebreaks, where parents don’t stay on and they have no problems.
Quotes attributed to me have been taken out of context – I’m not saying adults shouldn’t be allowed on playgrounds – I’d go out and shoot myself if this was the case – only on these specialised play facilities! We have 40 other playgrounds elsewhere in the Borough where parents are welcome to stay.

In other news, Iain Dale in churnalism shock!

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Which culture’s laws do we follow

FFS.

It wasn’t just the Mail.

Henry Porter’s piece on this is at the top of the most commented list on CiF at the moment. According to Porter, Watford Council are guilty of breaching parents’ human rights:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/henryporter/2009/oct/28/parents-playground-children

Idiots. Although it seems that the Mail just churned this story from the Watford Observer (as did, among other papers, the Guardian) – so contempt where contempt is due.

On another subject, Guido is saying that Damien McBride has paid Nadine Dorrie “substantial damages”, so it might be time to revisit the ‘nothing to see here’ thread…

http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2009/09/08/the-nadine-dorries-legal-action-something-odd/

Thanks for this Sunny. When the story broke yesterday I thought that it sounded like complete bollocks and lo and behold, it was. Whilst I can understand the Daily Mal running with such tripe I was disappointed that many other news agencies, including some for whom I have a bit of respect, picked it up and ran with it unchecked.

Parents are being banned from playing with their children in council recreation areas because they have not been vetted by police.

It’s not actually untrue though, is it? The fact that it only applies during supervised play sessions doesn’t make it a false statement, though I suppose it carries an exaggerated implication. The quote from the Mayor, in the original article, also seems to back up the general point of the article:

Mayor Dorothy Thornhill argued the council was merely enforcing government policy at the play areas.

‘Sadly, in today’s climate, you can’t have adults walking around unchecked in a children’s playground and the adventure playground is not a meeting place for adults,’ she said.

The general point seems to be that the council won’t allow parents in during supervised play sessions, presumably because if anything does happen to the children during that time, the council will get the blame (this explains why parents, or indeed any other adults, are allowed in at other times). The problem, therefore, would be the people expecting the council to have magic anti-paedophile protection powers, not the council itself. Now, this is an argument that you don’t often see in the Mail – that we can’t have 100% security at all time and, on balance, we’re better off assuming that parents are good people than we are assuming that everyone’s a potential paedophile, and that councils should be allowed to make that assumption without attracting any blame. But I can’t for the life of me figure out why, when they do make that argument, there’s a post up here disagreeing with them! Surely we’re in favour of letting honest people go about their business without obstruction and councils go about their business without unreasonable expectations, and against paedophile parent panics?

Also, the fact that nutters post comments on the Daily Mail proves sweet fuck all, unless you’re volunteering LC to be held to the same standard.

Come on Sunny, get a grip. This blog is just as shrill and partisan as the Daily Mail.

@Rob

the point is that the ‘playground’ is a supervised playground, supervised by council staff (the ‘play rangers’) and only open to children aged between 5 and 15. There are no facilities to accommodate parents. Apparently parents were never allowed to stay with their children at this facility but what had happened was that this rule was being bent more and more. This caused ongoing problems so the rule was simply reinforced.

The nutters posting comments on the Daily Mail are only to be expected. What’s more disappointing is the high number of sheep bleating in favour of Porter’s article in CiF. Mind you I try to avoid CiF where possible so I’d imagine it’s always like that.

Come on Sunny, get a grip. This blog is just as shrill and partisan as the Daily Mail.

Oh right, pointing out uncomfortable facts makes you shrill does it? Why do right-whingers complain so much when they see lefties getting annoyed with all the rubbish in the media?

Halloway:

the point is that the ‘playground’ is a supervised playground, supervised by council staff (the ‘play rangers’) and only open to children aged between 5 and 15. There are no facilities to accommodate parents. Apparently parents were never allowed to stay with their children at this facility but what had happened was that this rule was being bent more and more. This caused ongoing problems so the rule was simply reinforced.

Now, I accept that the Mail article may be wrong on this, but it contains this quote:

Miss Abbasi, from Garston, Hertfordshire, said: ‘I have been using the playgrounds for 18 years and it’s a sad day when parents cannot be involved with the enjoyment of their children.’

I don’t know the details, but it suggests something like this: in the past, the park was open to the general public. At some point in the recent past, this policy was changed but not enforced, and now it’s being fully enforced. My point is that the only reason we have this policy is that we have a grossly exaggerated belief about the likelihood of paedophile assaults on children and an unreasonable expectation on councils to prevent this. That also seems to be the point of the original article, at least if you follow it to its logical conclusion. Am I wrong?

10. Shatterface

If Porter ran the same story you can’t single the Mail out for inaccuracy – but you can single them out for hipocrisy since they’re partly responsible for paedo-panic in the first place.

“Oh right, pointing out uncomfortable facts makes you shrill does it? Why do right-whingers complain so much when they see lefties getting annoyed with all the rubbish in the media?”

Sunny – some balance and perspective would be nice, from both “left” and “right”. What you’re saying is that the parents aren’t banned, they just aren’t allowed to stay (I can’t see any difference) and making a song and dance in the process. Relax.

10 – that’s the best point. All this CRB bollocks is a direct reaction to the ‘something ought to be done; won’t someone think of the children!’ stuff that gets peddled after every accident/crime that involves children. And the Mail is probably the worst offender in that regard.

Would the mail commenters demand the right to sit in on their kid’s lessons at school?

Funny thing is I have a feeling they actually would. Now there’s something for the teaching profession to look forward to…

…and what kid wants their Mum hanging around anyway?

As someone from Watford that knows Harwoods I would say that the driver behind this is health and safety rather than a worry about pedophiles. Harwoods is not a swings and roundabouts type of playground, it is an adventure playground featuring rope slides many feet up in the air, and Krypton factor style climbing walls, so supervision by qualified staff is completely justified. It is also runs along next to Vicarage Road, so there would be nothing to stop people watching form the public footpath anyway.

There are plenty of other bog standard playgrounds in Watford, such as in Cassiobury Park a few minutes away where as far as I know there are no restrictions.

16. Guy Aitchison

I don’t see that the Mail has been “caught out” here. In all the essentials the story appears to be correct, as Rob says. The Mail never suggested that this applies to _all_ council-run play areas all of the time (though Watford Council’s statement implies that that is the accusation that’s been made).

Banning parents from an adventure playground in case they’re paedophiles is ridiculous.

I’m all for attacking the Daily Mail, but isn’t it better to attack them when they fall on the wrong side of our hysterical nanny-state culture?

The council has revised its statement, and the new one is available here: http://www.watford.gov.uk/ccm/content/strategic-services/home-page-content/statement-about-harwoods-and-harebreaks-adventure-playground.en

In particular, they’re now making it clear that the facilities in question have never been open public parks, they’re enclosed facilities run by council staff. This puts a different spin on the matter and suggests that it’s probably reasonable to exclude adults from the grounds as a general policy.

For what it’s worth, I still think that the fear of paedophiles is exaggerated, and the remarks the council made about ‘the current climate’ were stupid. If it’s an enclosed facility run by council staff then ‘the current climate’ has nothing to do with whether or not parents are allowed in, surely? But it does look like the Mail have misrepresented the situation somewhat in order to make their point. It’s a shame, as if the Mail has genuinely realised that the stoking of the paedophile panic has gone too far then I’d be wanting to applaud them for their change of heart.

“Banning parents from an adventure playground in case they’re paedophiles is ridiculous.” – yes, and Watford council didn’t do this, as their statement makes clear.

The Mayor has also released a statement clarifying the story, which I’ve updated the post with.

The headline was misleading, but I find the tone of this blog and many comments very worrying. In privately run play and training sessions, parents frequently sit in with younger children. I (as a grandparent) did this the other day with a 5 year old in a martial arts class. It would have been very odd not to be allowed to do it. Of course there was no question of CRB and we even took a few photos of our grandchild in the class.

Of course parents had to sit on the side and not get in the way. Either Watford’s carers aren’t capable of managing this or some parents are being awkward. If the carers are competent there would be no problem with parents and no risk to children. Basically, parents should be allowed in and, if necessary, told to keep out of the way. If any parents cause a nuisance, I would expect the other parents to support the carers in telling them not to interfere, so long as the carers are being reasonable and polite.

If the class I attended didn’t allow parents in, I would want to know, what have they got to hide? Parents don’t want to be hanging over railings watching children playing in case they attract suspicion.

Those here defending the Mail’s awful scaremongering ‘journalism’ really need to look deep within yourself as to why you are allying yourself with such an unsavoury bedfellow.

If you read the statement made by Watford Borough Council to the Watford Observer (look at the comments section at the bottom of the story) then I really cannot blame anyone for thinking that this was stranger danger paranoia. I was taken in by it and blogged about it myself.

However absurd the Mail’s PC Gawn Mad agenda is it is still the case that there is a paranoia about peadophiles and stranger danger in this country which is vastly in excess of the reality of the risk. While the Mail is an easy target and instances of crap and biased journalism should, quite rightly, be taken to task I think we do our children a diservice by dismissing the issue of this paranoia as being a made up issue by the tabloids.

It does exist and it is depriving a lot of kids of a healthy childhood.

Akela, true, but I think many would also point out the Sun and DM are instrumental in driving that restrictive agenda in the first place.

Sunny

Without doubt! In many ways they create their own market, create hysteria, bully the government into a reaction and then moan about the consequences. Genuis marketing stratergy.

[deleted]

Frank, there is nothing in the original statement that supports the original Mail argument. Now calm down. It can’t be healthy to get yourself so worked up over a baseless story.

If they wanted to stop parents hanging around, why does it naturally follow that this is because they think they might be pedophiles? That’s quite a leap of logic.

I’d love to know what incidents referred to in “After a number of incidents…” actually were.

She isn’t saying the parents are pedophiles there though is she?

“Who else grooms?”

Drug dealers.

Amusingly enough I’ve found someone who, even assuming the Daily Mail version of events, nevertheless defends the Mayor:

http://www.irfanahmed.org/2009/10/is-iain-dale-bonkers.html

32. Shatterface

From Thornhill’s original post:

‘Imagine what those same papers would say if a child was snatched from the playground and we were accused of allowing free access of adults onto our site. Or worse still one of those adults was using it to acquire knowledge of and groom other children – yes sadly it happens we all know that. Again, we would rightly be pilloried.’

Whatever reason she’s using now she used paedo-danger earlier.

I heard something along these lines on the radio today:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1223738/Nursery-children-branded-racist-schools-report-40-000-playground-race-spats-year.html

But as it’s in the Daily Mail I guess it doesn’t count.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Mail caught out on ‘playground paedophiles’ story http://bit.ly/1vxN82

  2. Ged Robinson

    RT @libcon: Mail caught out on ‘playground paedophiles’ story http://bit.ly/1vxN82 < I wonder if @iaindale has read this?

  3. Tim Ireland

    RT @libcon Mail caught out on ‘playground paedophiles’ story http://bit.ly/1vxN82

  4. Robin Green

    Looks like I was taken in by an exaggerated Daily-Mail type story this morning: http://bit.ly/35tDlU

  5. Andy Gimblett

    Woo, go Daily Mail! RT @greenrd: Looks like I was taken in by an exaggerated Daily-Mail type story this morning: http://bit.ly/35tDlU

  6. Phil Randal

    RT @libcon Mail caught out on ‘playground paedophiles’ story http://bit.ly/1vxN82 [lets all deskill parents and replace them…]

  7. Dave Keating

    @libcon I have a theory that half of the Daily Mail's online readers are American http://retwt.me/1GFmR

  8. Axis Media Group

    RT @iainmhepburn Mail caught out on ‘playground paedophiles’ story http://bit.ly/1vxN82

  9. Liberal Conspiracy

    Mail caught out on ‘playground paedophiles’ story http://bit.ly/1vxN82

  10. Ged Robinson

    RT @libcon: Mail caught out on ‘playground paedophiles’ story http://bit.ly/1vxN82 < I wonder if @iaindale has read this?

  11. Tim Ireland

    RT @libcon Mail caught out on ‘playground paedophiles’ story http://bit.ly/1vxN82

  12. Tweets that mention Liberal Conspiracy » Mail caught out on ‘playground paedophiles’ -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tim Ireland and Liberal Conspiracy, Ged Robinson. Ged Robinson said: RT @libcon: Mail caught out on ‘playground paedophiles’ story http://bit.ly/1vxN82 < I wonder if @iaindale has read this? […]

  13. Robin Green

    Looks like I was taken in by an exaggerated Daily-Mail type story this morning: http://bit.ly/35tDlU

  14. Andy Gimblett

    Woo, go Daily Mail! RT @greenrd: Looks like I was taken in by an exaggerated Daily-Mail type story this morning: http://bit.ly/35tDlU

  15. Phil Randal

    RT @libcon Mail caught out on ‘playground paedophiles’ story http://bit.ly/1vxN82 [lets all deskill parents and replace them…]

  16. Dave Keating

    @libcon I have a theory that half of the Daily Mail's online readers are American http://retwt.me/1GFmR

  17. Axis Media Group

    RT @iainmhepburn Mail caught out on ‘playground paedophiles’ story http://bit.ly/1vxN82

  18. Hammer & Bicycle

    No internet access for 3 days, so very out of the loop. But I knew this one was bollocks when I heard about it yesterday: http://is.gd/4I9Rj

  19. How to to spin your way out of trouble at The Charlotte Gore Blog

    […] we go.. here’s the really great bit: The Liberal Democrat Voice and the Liberal Conspiracy have comprehensively debunked the original Metro article that gave rise to Henry’s latest […]

  20. Dept of Urban Myths? « Clive Davis Blog

    […] reports on Politico and elsewhere weren’t as watertight as they seemed. Closer to home, Liberal Conspiracy and John Rentoul have pointed out that the  Great Watford Playground Scandal – which got a […]





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