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I have difficulty with the word ‘offender’.  I didn’t until I heard Frances Crook speak at an event last year when she remarked that the term has no real meaning given that most of us at some point or other has probably committed an offence.  Frances has a point – consider the following questions.

I have difficulty with the word ‘offender’.  I didn’t until I heard Frances Crook speak at an event last year when she remarked that the term has no real meaning given that most of us at some point or other has probably committed an offence.  Frances has a point – consider the following questions.

§      Have you ever been in a fight?

§      Have you ever agreed to pay cash, in return for a price reduction, in any transaction with a self-employed person?

§      Have you ever kept a television without a licence?

§      Have you ever taken a pen from work home without returning it?

§      Have you ever photocopied a book? How many did you answer ‘yes’ to?  They’re all offences. Granted, they might not be malicious, deadly, have victims (debatable I know!) or carry a prison sentence, but saying yes does mean that you offended. 

Another difficulty I have with the term is its use for those who have paid their dues and served their sentence; the ‘ex-offenders’.  Can anyone tell me when a person stops being an ‘ex-offender’? 

These terms come so loaded with stigma that they can be dangerous in the wrong hands, setting people apart from others and connecting individuals to the undesirable characteristics of the group and giving ammunition to those getting in the way of sensible debate.

I'm a little resigned to the fact that the MoJ (et al.) are going to continue to use these terms despite my protestations. I suppose I should pick my battles - maybe this is one for another day?

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