Taken as a standalone statement, do you agree? disagree? Would it matter to you who said it?
Take a minute to answer before you go further.
This is a slightly paraphrased version of a statement made by someone in a discussion about criminal intent and child sexual abuse. I was stating that I have a problem with crimes of intent because the possibility of abuse becomes much more pronounced. Her take is that there are circumstances such as child welfare in which prosecution of intent is justified.
And I'm freaking undecided.
While I hate prosecution of intent, I hate harming children even more. And if it were just that choice, it would be easy, but it's not a clear choice of one or another.
In prosecution of intent (for example prosecution of someone for conspiracy to have sex with a minor), it is easy to harm someone who might not actually be guilty because you misinterpret evidence as intent. For instance, if someone is arrested for intent but is not convicted (or even brought to trial), their reputation is ruined. Being accused of child molestation, whether it was real or not, is ruining.
So ethical question: is it justified to potentially ruin an innocent man's life if it potentially saves a child from being sexually abused? What if one man's life is ruined, but five children are saved? Ten? A hundred? What if it doesn't ruin his life, but only inconveniences him for a few years? What if he loses his job and his marriage crumbles?
Then there's the question of perceived harm. For instance, would it be justified for the gummint to monitor all online chat activity without a warrant because there is the potential of child predation? That could be considered a preventative act.
Think that's an unrealistic scenario? What if the gummint wanted to monitor all online chat traffic because of the potential of terrorist activity?
"Hey, as long as you have nothing to hide, you shouldn't have a problem with it."