The tide of emotion flooding over the paralympics is inspiring and euphoric. We watch many supreme athletes achieving the most incredible feats of unbelievable strength and bravery. Whilst watching Ellie Simmonds win the 400 metre Freestyle in the pool, I marvelled at the fact that she produced more reserves of strength than most of us can manage in a lifetime. At the end of the race, she could hardly speak for tears of joy. When she was presented with her award, it was obvious that she was the same height standing up as her competitors were sitting down, yet she managed to beat them all. What a triumph.
I am frequently laughed at by my daughter for being tearful at various television programmes, particularly "Britain's got Talent". I never expected to become dewy eyed when watching a sporting event. Quite honestly I find the Paralympics more entertaining and inspirational than the mainstream event. There is no doubt in my mind that the disabled have more metaphorical hurdles to jump than their able bodied counterparts.
So what is the point of this blog? Sadly there is always a dark side to everything. Particularly if you are a child abuse lawyer. We always look for the flaw in everything. Why be creative when you can be destructive?
There are many statistics which show that disabled children, and vulnerable adults are much more likely to be targetted for abuse. Think about it. They are less able to defend themselves, and less likely to be able to give evidence in Court. Figures vary, but a rough statistic shows that a disabled person is almost twice as likely to be abused than the able bodied. You can read more on the NSPCC site here
The question is how vigilant are the officials when there are so many vulnerable people gathered together? Whilst there are coaches to watch over the individuals, child protection officers, a paralympic policy on the subject, and thankfully more awareness of the risks now than at any time in history, what an attraction to the dedicated child sex offender?
To quote the Safe Network "Officials have confirmed that 2012 Paralympics will be the biggest ever
with over 4,000 competitors from 165 countries competing. Athletes as
young as 12 will be competing, so it is more important than ever that
sufficent procedures are in place to safeguard young competitors." The NSPCC sell their own booklet entitled "Safeguarding deaf and disabled children in sport"
The competitors are highly stressed, away from home, full of adrenalin, and focussed on their event. Will they be turning their mind to the risk of grooming and entrapment? Some of them will be seeing the glories of London, riches beyond their wildest dreams. Some of them come from countries where the disabled are pilloried by society, and given no welfare help whatsoever. Compared to the United Kingdom, home must seem like Dickensian London .
So imagine the scenario. The disabled child is allowed a wild card entry because of the dreadful conditions at home. He/she stands no chance of winning not only because of the standard of their equipment, but also the lack of investment in them at home. They have incredible talent. They come last in their event, and the Paralympics are nearly over. They feel down, and don't want to go home.
A nice man says he is acting on behalf of a major sponsor, who is looking to invest in foreign paralympic athletes. He offers accomodation, regular contact with home, genuine looking papers, and a flashing smile. He seems credible. The disabled athlete has a choice. Stay here in luxury, or go home to poverty and discrimination. What choice is there?
What if the promises do not materialise? No rights, an illegal immigrant with barely any English is sucked into the sex offender's world of intrigue.
I apologise for my cynicism. I really hope it doesn't happen. Sadly, I fear it may become a reality. I hope that I do not receive instructions of this type. If I do, I will fight for their rights.