Philip Pullman speaks against UK’s vetting laws

Philip PullmanA measure in the UK that would require anyone working at a school, even if for only a day, to be vetted by the government has caused some outcry, particularly among children’s authors. Philip Pullman has gone on record as saying that he would rather not go to schools than buy into the “surveillance culture.”

There is much fuss in this morning’s papers over a statement by Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials trilogy, that once the government’s new vetting system is in place, he will simply stop making visits to schools. In an interview in the latest Bookseller, he says: “This is Labour’s Section 28 — the implication being that no adult could possibly choose to spend time with children unless they wanted to abuse them. What will it say to children? It’ll say that every adult is a potential rapist or murderer, and that they should never trust anyone.”

He expresses his regret that he may never be allowed inside a school again, but adds: “I refuse to be complicit in any measure that assumes my guilt before I’ve done anything wrong. The proposal deserves nothing but contempt.”

Mr Pullman is not alone in his refusal. Other authors who object to being vetted include Anne Fine, Anthony Horowitz, Michael Morpurgo and Quentin Blake. According to former Children’s Laureate Mrs Fine: “The whole idea of vetting an adult who visits many schools, but each only for a day, and then always in the presence of other adults, is deeply offensive.”

Thanks to SFWA member James A. Bailey for the tip.

3 Responses

  1. Pingback: Phillip Pullman protests UK school vetting laws

  2. Jonquil

    There is an important context for this. The distinguished and award-winning children’s book William Mayne “was imprisoned for two and a half years in 2004 after admitting to charges of child sexual abuse between 1960 and 1975, and was placed on the British sex offenders’ register for life.”

    It is not uncommon for people who are sexually attracted to children to take up professions where they have access to children. The screening in response to this is not so much “hysteria” as it is reacting to a real problem.

    Note that “only present for one day” overlooks the practice of grooming. Nobody is suggesting that putative-molestor is going to molest the child at the school during the reading. They are suggesting that when an adult is formally introduced to a child under the auspices of the school, thus giving the relationship official sanction, it is good to be reasonably sure that the adult doesn’t have an ulterior motive.

  3. Boyo

    The vetting laws do not apply to occasional guests and visitors to schools or any other place which has vulnerable people. As Pullman et al would be visitors – like visiting fire and police personnel to give talks, and not workers or employees it is a hypothetical argument and a non-issue. Only if Pullman were to work in a school doing, for example, a week-long workshop, would it even be considered to vet him.