Sunday, 20 April 2008

The Times: Equality obsession puts vulnerable at risk

[...] The question here is not what people do - of course a person with LDs could do something bad - but how responsible they are for it. To commit a crime, and by extension to be guilty of it, you must in law have a guilty mind, mens rea in Latin. A guilty mind means the understanding and intention of wrongdoing. Clearly most people with LDs would not have mens rea in the same way as someone of normal intelligence. They would not be equally guilty, and probably not guilty at all. As the 18-year-old’s mother said: “How could my boy be racist? He has a mental age of five.” She is entirely right.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the learning disability activists dislike the idea of a “mental age”, which links LDs with children and the status of minority. In their loyal and admirable support for people with LDs, they insist on their equality and their equal rights, which has led to a mentality of denial. The recent Mental Incapacity Act, for instance, which affected people with LDs among others, was suddenly, and tellingly, changed under lobby pressure to the Mental Capacity Act. This struck me an unmistakable sign of denial. The universal phrase “learning disability” is itself a form of euphemistic denial.

As usual a cry has gone up for more training for the police to deal better with cases like last week’s. Personally I think more training – of the sort offered these days – would only make things worse. The prevailing orthodoxy in which public servants are trained is one of aggressive egalitarianism, mixed with an obsession with racism, which is all too likely to deflect them from truth, compassion and common sense. This orthodoxy created this mess in the first place. Read more
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