Editor’s comment: It’s so vital to print abusers’ photographs

Eugene Fitzpatrick

Eugene Fitzpatrick - Credit: Archant

The story of what vicar Eugene Fitzpatrick did to two children is appalling.

I can only hope his conviction offers hope to other survivors who are still waiting for justice.

It is possible, as police have said, Fitzpatrick had other victims. I hope in publishing his picture, his sentencing and the recollections of a family who knew him, those people – if they exist – will feel confident in coming forward, either to police or to someone they trust.

Survivors can help secure justice for each other by speaking out, and may even be able to prevent abuse happening to other people if they do so early enough – but it is absolutely not their responsibility to do so. They have already had trust abused, and reluctance to offer it again is understandable. The only responsibility here was that held by Fitzpatrick – a responsibility that was scandalously neglected.

But I want to talk about a different kind of responsibility: the one we have to anyone still waiting for justice to be served. On occasion, the Gazette and other papers have been forced to run stories about sex attackers and child abusers without a picture – either because one was never taken, or because it was shot by a different police force and could not be traced. To my mind, failing to picture someone who may have untraced victims is irresponsible: we, and the police, should be doing everything in our power to ensure survivors have a good chance of seeing and responding to these stories.

If existing processes don’t offer a reliable source of mugshots, perhaps there should be an alternative: court photographs upon conviction, say. At any rate, I know some work by Scotland Yard went into tracking down Fitzpatrick’s photograph (he was arrested outside London), and for that I commend them. I hope their efforts are rewarded.

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