This post is a bit longer than normal and it may offend some people, hopefully it will allow us to think in depth about a very problematic issue that is current.
The news about Daniel Patrick Livingstone was surprising for me. I was concerned about this man and his potential for further offending as were a large number of people. When his profile is laid along alongside that of Tony Robertson who ran over and raped and killed Blessie Gotinco It is sobering, they are very similar. In my haste to say my bit I labeled him as filth and described the situation where he was looked for as being farcical. I took down my post. I had been asked some searching questions by my Fiancé and they were great questions. I have commented before about how the internet encourages instant responses, often driven by the desire to be first, to have something to say, garner attention. I am not sure why I wrote yesterday part from being shocked, so mea culpa aside, back to the issues.
Daniel Livingstone was on an extended supervision order, the timeline of his disappearance is detailed here http://tinyurl.com/Livingstone-timeline, it is a sad indictment considering the scrutiny that one would expect after such a high profile. Labour MP Kelvin Davis has made some pertinent points about the response to his disappearance. The majority of the narrative in this story will be around who did what and how a potentially dangerous man is loose on our streets. Break out the pitchforks, let’s get him. What is not covered or barely is why did he run? What do we know?
We know that according to the reports Livingstone was not rehabilitated, both the Department of Corrections and Livingstone were concerned about freedom. Livingstone was very unsure of how he would cope and corrections sure he would reoffend. We also know that he was suicidal. He left a suicide note before he disappeared. I did wonder after I re–read the story as the Police attendance was described as a welfare check. It would appear that the police failed in their duties, Livingstone could have been in need of attention he could have been ill any manner of scenarios. I know that there are many people who will say well who cares, he deserves it, and I know where that is located and I understand it. However, I don’t agree with it, I cannot. I will write about that at some point soon.
Here is what is not known. Monitoring of people on ESO or Home detention is contracted out to private firms. The staff who do it are not trained they have very few skills. There are documented cases where the behavior of these “contractors” is no better than the behavior of the US military guards in IRAQ, objectification, vilification, gratuitous insults freely given. There is very little freedom in such orders, the technology is unreliable and often breaks down. People are subject to random checks at any time of day or night and there is no apology if the gear is faulty and causes the false alarms.
Livingstone was also subject to being monitored by the Department of Corrections. Like many Government departments it is a mixed bag. There are some passionate and really effective probation officers who work there. There are also some who would have slotted straight into East German Prisons. For them people like Livingstone are just perps, wastes of space and they will do everything they can to get him back into jail. We know the technology can be faulty, it is often old and unreliable and often breaks down. People are subject to random checks at any time of day or night and there is no apology if the gear is faulty and causes the false alarms. All this is traumatic the consequences of not appearing when the door is knocked on can mean broken sleep, and a constant state of alertness, which is very different from being incarcerated in a locked cell. The doors are unlocked and relative freedom is just steps away.
Livingstone was also subject to being monitored by the Department of Corrections. Like many Government departments it is a mixed bag. There are some passionate and really effective probation officers who work there. There are also some who would have slotted straight into East German Prisons. For them people like Livingstone are just perps, wastes of space and they will do everything they can to get him back into jail. These people have no place in such a job. They do not contribute to society in a positive way. We do not know what he was able to do, what he was offered and what he was prevented from doing.
The last thing is that we do not know Livingstone’s story. There are very few people who are born bad. I will concede that maybe there are some who are for the want of a better construct are born evil I am not 100% sure of this. I am willing to bet that there is a sad legacy of abuse in his life, a tale of ineffectual intervention. Most likely by well-meaning people however still ineffectual. His schooling is likely to have been traumatic, for him, his teachers and his fellow students. It is highly likely that he came from a single parent home, where his parent was just left to cope, they are just as likely to have come from a similar set of circumstances. He may have been in CYF custody or other foster parent situations, and had multiple placements, sent from pillar to post, but few people care about that or understand its impact. We as a society spend so much money at the time of offending and comparatively so little to prevent it by funding interventions, mentoring, appropriate and tailored education at the start of their education. His teachers may have been able to tell you that Livingstone was likely to be an offender if they were equipped with the skills to recognize the signs. None of this is an excuse for his offending it just gives a back ground.
It would appear that Livingstone is not able to live in the community and the judge who refrained from sentencing him to preventative detention got it wrong. In my opinion given what we know and that which I am sure of Livingstone himself would be better off in prison. He is set up to fail in the community. Livingstone still has and had choice, none of this eliminates his choices, although they were not and will continue to be very hard choices. He may have already chosen, he may be no longer with us and regardless of the hyperbole around that, his suicide would be another tragedy.