Richard Ingrams’s Week: Schools learnt the wrong lesson from Soham tragedy

Related Topics

Following the infamous Soham murder case of 2002, when a school caretaker Ian Huntley was found guilty of murdering two girl pupils, the customary inquiry was put into motion. As often happens, it ignored the most important question, which was how Huntley was taken on by the school in the first place, and instead proposed a whole range of petty new regulations to stop the same sort of thing from happening again.

I don't recall the headmaster of the school ever being named in the press, though it was stated that the vetting of Huntley's job application had been farmed out to a private company. No details were given and it was not even clear whether Huntley had been required to provide any references and, if so, who had given them. It is a direct result of the failures in that case that regulations have been brought in, which resulted this week in a number of famous authors refusing to visit schools because they are required to pay £64 for a certificate proving that they are not convicted child molesters.

They are absolutely right to do so and one hopes that others – not merely authors – will follow their example and boycott schools. It is the responsibility of the schools to monitor those they employ at the risk of being exposed and penalised if it all goes wrong. They have no right to pass the buck and insist on visiting speakers providing proof of their bona fides – let alone making them pay for it.

But this sort of thing has become general practice, as I discovered recently at my local NatWest bank where I have been a customer for about 30 years. Before I could open a new deposit account I had to produce my passport, driving licence and a utility bill to prove that I was not a money-launderer.

Spot the truth amid the hoaxes

I suppose I ought to apologise to David Miliband. Three weeks ago, following a report in The Times, I quoted something which he had put on his website following the death of Michael Jackson. "Nobody has soared so high and dived so low. RIP Michael."

Thanks to the Daily Mail we now know that David Miliband never wrote this. Crowing over the fact that Sky News and people like me had been taken in, the Mail revealed that the Jackson quote had in fact been a hoax.

But not a very good one, they might have added, because although Miliband never said what was reported, he could perfectly well have done so. After all, it is almost de rigueur for today's politicians to demonstrate whenever possible a passion for pop music. When David Cameron, for example, was busy introducing himself to the British public he was asked the crucial question: did he prefer Blur or Oasis? I can't remember what answer he gave, but supposing he had said he didn't care for either of them and actually liked listening to Mozart, we should never have heard of him again.

Perhaps it will be shown that Ed Balls the Education Minister who recently was revealed "Twittering" on the internet and describing how he had made himself a Chinese meal has also been the victim of a hoaxer.

The truth of the matter is that nothing nowadays is too improbable or grotesque not to have been said by one of our leading politicians. And perhaps that ought to be a matter of some concern to the rest of us.

Approval from the Vatican – what would Oscar have thought?

Astonishment and a certain amount of ridicule have greeted the praise lavished on Oscar Wilde by the Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano this week.

That is because Oscar is nowadays remembered only as a gay icon or, as The Independent reported yesterday, "a flamboyant and robust homosexual who delighted in outrage and scandalising Victorian society". A far cry, in other words, from the stuffy old Catholic church which is still, in the 21st century, riddled with debilitating homophobia.

It is overlooked – and for all I know the Vatican may have overlooked it as well – that aside from the plays and the witty epigrams, Oscar Wilde wrote movingly and at length about Jesus Christ both in The Soul of Man Under Socialism and De Profundis, written while he was serving a prison sentence in Reading jail. His thoughts may not have been wholly orthodox but there is no doubting the sincerity:

"With a width and wonder of imagination that fills one almost with awe, he took the entire world of the inarticulate, the voiceless world of pain as his kingdom, and made of himself its eternal mouthpiece. Those of whom I have spoken, who are dumb under oppression and 'whose silence is heard only of God' he chose as his brothers. He sought to become eyes to the blind, ears to the deaf and a cry in the lips of those whose tongues had been tied."

Worth bearing in mind by those who would like to think of Oscar Wilde merely as a witty iconoclast and gay rights pioneer.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star