Missing links fatal to Holly and Jessica

AT 2am in a dark alley in Grimsby, an 18-year-old girl was attacked and raped on her way home from a night out.She was left cut, shocked and traumatised.

AT 2am in a dark alley in Grimsby, an 18-year-old girl was attacked and raped on her way home from a night out.

She was left cut, shocked and traumatised. The opportunist attacker could strike again, police warned.

Then they arrested Ian Huntley. The case went to court, but was dropped for lack of evidence.

Maybe he didn't do it. If he didn't, it would be unfair for the case to hamper his future, wouldn't it?


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Humberside Police might have got it wrong. He was certainly an easy target for them. They knew him quite well by then.

It was just one of ten occasions they had him in the frame for one offence or another.

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North Lincs Social Services knew him too. In three years he was reported to them five times – once for indecently assaulting an 11-year-old and four times for having sex with under-age girls. No charges were brought.

Maybe he didn't really do it. If he didn't, it would be unfair for the cases to hamper his future, wouldn't it?

In January 1998, four months before the rape allegation, he appeared in Grimsby Crown Court on a burglary charge. For technical legal reasons, the case was never completed.

Maybe he didn't do it. If he didn't, it would be unfair for the case to hamper his future, wouldn't it?

It may be right for previous convictions to be kept from a trial jury. One miscarriage of justice might lead to a string of them if jurors heard an accused person's record.

Home secretary David Blunkett and many police officers believe a higher conviction rate would make that a risk worth taking. Many legal experts disagree. There are good arguments on both sides.

In Huntley's case, there was no criminal record for the jury in the Soham murder trial to hear.

But the question remains how a man with his past could even be considered for the job of caretaker at a village school.

Every time Huntley was named to Social Services in Lincs, their concern – rightly – was for the girl involved. The cases were dealt with by different social workers, and they never connected that the same man was involved each time.

That is not just extraordinary, it is unforgivable.

The individual workers may not be to blame, but the system most certainly is.

The plain fact is that Huntley should not have been in Soham to be able to kill Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

Maybe he should already have been in prison. Maybe he should have been receiving psychiatric help.

At the very least, he should have been automatically barred from the job that put fatal temptation in his way.

Of course it's easy to be wise after the event. And of course human depravity will continue whatever systems are put in place to curb it.

But that's no reason to accept systems that aren't good enough.

***

WAR crimes? Well probably, but if we are to believe even a portion of what we hear, most of Saddam Hussein's sadistic career of murder took place when Iraq was supposedly at peace.

At the height of his power, Saddam WAS the law in the land. So what court could legitimately try him?

It is good news from almost every point of view that he has been taken – and taken alive.

(The exception is the boost his capture has given to George W Bush's popularity rating.)

Saddam's trial, if it is an international one, will be an important opportunity for world justice to be seen in action.

But will the court have jurisdiction to bring in his accomplices too? What about all those accused of complicity – for example, of helping to arm him with the weapons to exterminate thousands of innocent Kurds?

Will Donald Rumsfeld, for example, find himself in the dock?

***

THE hunt is on for a mole who leaked details of secret deliberations over the New Year's honours list. The committee minutes apparently debase the honours system.

This raises two questions, both more interesting than any list of new knighthoods, MBEs (My Bumper Earnings) or OBEs (Other Buggers' Efforts).

The first is this: Why, when a scandal is uncovered, is the first reaction always to look for the person who revealed it?

Secondly: How can you possibly debase something already so outdated and laughable?

The award of a knighthood to Rolling Stone Mick Jagger didn't debase the system. It debased Jumpin' Jack Flash himself.

You should have remembered the old slogan, Mick: Just Say No.

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