Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Who paid for letting Colin Hatch out of prison - except the child he killed?

Sean Williams
I’ve written before about making public servants accountable for the consequences of their decisions, usually in a semi-jocular, reductio ad absurdum fashion. But I’m not joking today, because this concerns the death of a seven-year old boy. As you may have read, a 37-year old prisoner - a spec of sub-human ordure called Colin Hatch - was killed at the maximum security Full Sutton jail near York yesterday. Another prisoner has been arrested on suspicion of his murder. Hatch was jailed for life in 1994 for sexually assaulting and then killing seven-year old Sean Williams by choking him to death. Hatch subsequently taped up Sean’s body in bin-liners and dumped him in a lift at the North London tower block where he had lured the child.

Hatch had a string of previous convictions for assaulting young children – he’d been at it since the age of 15. At the time he killed Sean, he was out on parole after serving just two years of a three-year sentence for assaulting an eight-year old boy and choklng him until he lost consciousness. During the trial for that offence, Hatch’s own lawyerwarned that he could kill when eventually released. At the trial, the psychiatrist Dr Anthony Wilkins advised that Hatch was a “menace to the public” and recommended that he be sent to Broadmoor. 

Broadmoor did not consider Hatch dangerous enough, and the judge, we are told, could only sentence this vile psychopath to a maximum of three years.

I doubt if the fact that Hatch is now dead is of any consolation to anyone. Like most normal, non-liberal people, I just thought “good” when I read about it. But I was curious to discover what changes had been made to the law at the time to make sure it couldn’t happen again. And I wondered what had happened to the people who created the circumstances in which this monster had been allowed to violate, terrify and murder a seven-year old child.

Who at Broadmoor decided that Hatch wasn’t dangerous “enough” – whatever that means? Was it a committee? Can we be told their names? Would they like to tell us how they felt when they heard that Hatch had gone on to murder little Sean Williams as a result of their lack of judgment? Were they ever allowed to be involved in making similar decisions again?  Were they dismissed for their grotesque error?

The same questions obviously apply to the wretched fools who allowed Hatch out on parole. Why was he on parole in the first place? Who recommended him for parole? Who thought it would be a good idea to free a man (I use the term loosely) who had almost killed an eight-year old boy two years’ earlier? Do any of those who supported the decision still work in this field? If so, why? Do they sleep soundly at night? If so, why?Did they all – they and the Broadmoor bunch – have to meet Sean’s relatives and explain to them the reasoning behind their fatal decision? If not, why not? And what happened to Hatch’s parole officer?

If the Judge really wasn’t able to sentence Hatch to more than three years, I wonder which Minister drafted the rules which led to Sean Williams dying an unimaginably horrific death. Shouldn’t there be some way of calling politicians to account for the havoc they wreak?

I’m not forgetting that the guilty party here was Colin Hatch. But many responsible, highly paid and no doubt respected people conspired to cause the death of a child – and it seems unfair that (as far as we know) not one them has had to pay in any way for the consequences of their actions. Isn’t that what the Criminal Justice system is supposed to be about?

Studying newspaper reports at the time, all that seems to have changed was better training for parole officers supervising sex offenders, and a requirement for released child sex offenders to visit a psychiatrist within fourteen days.

Big deal!

I understand only too well that full accountability in the public sector would rapidly lead to sclerosis: decisions would be endlessly deferred, lawyers’ fees would go through the roof and the calibre of those willing to undertake such work would deteriorate rapidly (if such a thing is possible). But when a whole system allows officials and “experts” to make themselves feel good by showing “compassion” to criminals, but then fails to hold them to account when their liberality results in innocent people suffering, something has gone horribly wrong. 

Let me quote from Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759):

“When the guilty is about to suffer that just retaliation, which the natural indignation of mankind tells them is due to his crimes; when the insolence of his injustice is broken and humbled by the terror of his approaching punishment; when he ceases to be an object of fear, with the generous and humane he begins to be an object of pity. The thought of what he is about to suffer extinguishes their resentment for the sufferings of others to which he has given occasion. They are disposed to pardon and forgive him, and to save him from that punishment, which in all their cool hours they had considered as the retribution due to such crimes. Here, therefore, they have occasion to call to their assistance the consideration of the general interest of society. They counterbalance the impulse of this weak and partial humanity by the dictates of a humanity that is more generous and comprehensive. They reflect that mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent, and oppose to the emotions of compassion which they feel for a particular person, a more enlarged compassion which they feel for mankind.”

Every official involved in the Criminal Justice system should be made to learn this marvellously wise passage by heart.

Rest in Peace, Sean Williams.

Roast in Hell, Colin Hatch.


  1. A very interesting comment. Particularly the Adam Smith quote.

    Retributive justice is particularly satisfying when it is brought to bear on some repulsive paedophile murderer. I would not exactly go so far as congratulating Damian Fowkes [apart from allegedly stringing up Hatch he is reported as the person who tried to cut the throat of the Soham murderer Huntley] unchecked individual vigilante acts inevitably lead to more lynchings and then mob rule.

    For years now the Home Office [an even more useless Department of State than the MoD and FCO and that is a very harsh criticism indeed] and its allies -The Criminal Justice System, The Probation Service and The Police [who seemed to go into a state of inanition post-Stephen Lawrence] have failed to protect British children against paedophiles. For example, the amount of money that has been made available to monitor the activities of paedophile rings and train monitors is apparantly derisory. The brutal murders of infants at the hands of their "parents" is another subject altogether. There are huge cracks in the system and little boys and girls in both categories will continue to fall though them in the future at an alarming rate.

    I strongly suspect that one of the main reasons for these deep cracks is that there are some serious turf wars being waged [in the same way that I know that part of the ineptitude of the MoD is caused by inter-service rivalry] and the motives behind these wars have very little to do with the interests of the children and everything to do with protecting these unspeakable "nonces" either from the wrath of the public when they are on the streets or from the inmates when they are locked up. But as usual we will never know because everything is shrouded in secrecy and subterfuge and meaningless statistics massaged to death.

    This Coalition Government are proving to be as inept as the last lot with their stunts and "Big Society" ["Stakeholder Society"] prattle. What about "Open Society"? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? The answer is: absolutely nobody.
    Friday, February 25, 2011 - 05:28 PM

  2. Lex Talionis, I think there are many problems here: the CJS has been hijacked by liberals, who simply cannot see evil-doers as anything but the victims of mental illness (when they’re simply evil), the CJS no longer deals in retributive justice (all nasty and right-wing), and successive governments have simply refused to build more prisons (a) to save money and (b) because liberals think there’s something shocking about sticking a lot of people in prison. Most of us, I suspect, think formal retributive justice should, in fact, be the key element in sentencing, that some people are simply evil and need to be locked away so they can’t harm the rest of us, couldn’t give a toss about how many bad people are in prison, and would gladly forsake our deranged foreign aid budget in order to create more prisons. If no official – from the Justice Secretary on down – is ever called to account, nothing will ever change, especially as the rate of child murder remains fairly constant.

    Shame on the people who conspire to let this happen.
    Sunday, February 27, 2011 - 12:41 AM

  3. Currently, convicted paedophiles and child murderers are housed in special wings or concentrated in smaller prisons which include no other category. I believe they are known as "Nonce Houses" [our local nick, for example]. This is obviously an expensive process.

    If paedophiles knew that they had to take their chances with the general prison population and run into a Damien Fowkes would this not act as a deterrent and thereby cut costs? If not, the fate of those who were maimed or killed while serving out their sentences would add proper weight to the retributive factor in their punishment which the law currently does not allow. At the risk of sounding trite, the abuse and murder of children really do require the harshest of punishments. I know all the counter-arguments, believe me. They all involve what the Germans call "Schlamperei" - a never ending process of procrastination and prevarication. Well, roll on the next rape, abduction or murder of some little child.
    Sunday, February 27, 2011 - 10:21 AM

  4. Lex Talionis, I’m happy with the notion that prisons shouldn’t be the equivalent of slightly down-market Premier Inn where chavs can rest up between crime sprees without having to forsake – even temporarily – TV, drugs, alcohol and violence. Because of that, I’m strongly opposed to any criminal coming over all self-righteous and beating up, torturing or killing nonces – i.e. wrongdoers who are even more morally repugnant than themselves. Solitary confinement, no TV, no drugs, no alcohol, and no right to go scuttling off to the ECHR would seem to be a sensible policy for the nonce community – same for the rest of the criminal population, minus solitary confinement. (Did you read about the Spanish woman imprisoned for burning to death the man who raped her 13-year old daughter: she met the vile creature when he was out of prison on day release and he made the mistake of asking after the girl he’d raped – she’s about to be pardoned after spending just over a year in prison for the offence. Now, she’s someone it’s hard not to sympathise with, to put it mildly!)

    Thank you for that fascinating account of the Cabinet Secretary’s serial incompetence, DM – I’ve long suspected that the public sector is run on Calvinist principles, i.e. from the start of their careers employees are either “damned” or “saved”: the latter can leave behind a trail of failure and destruction without any effect on their rise to the top. As long as your face fits, what the rest of you gets up to simply doesn’t matter! All very odd.
    Saturday, March 5, 2011 - 01:15 PM