Staying safe when dating online is something which has been covered on this blog before. Why are we bringing it up again? Yesterday’s newspaper headline has made it necessary!
I am not one for reading the national papers. I find that there is a jaded view in most of them and I am against the sensationalism of the press. Occasionally a headline will jump out and hit me square between the eyes. Yesterday was one of those days.
The front page of the Daily Mirror showed the headline ‘STOP ONLINE DATING PREDATORS’. It was the story of Jason Lawrence.
Jason Lawrence was accused of rape, sexual and indecent assault over a three year period. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Good! I hear you cry, and I completely agree but this isn’t the point of this blog.
The point of this blog is to try and discover who is responsible for his actions.
Judge Gregory Dickinson, QC, highlighted the “need to take steps to increase protection for others”.
I agree that more could have been done by the site in question. They had received complaints from some of his victims, could they have done more?
They could have banned him from the site. Would this have caused him to go elsewhere? Moving the problem from one site to another is not the answer.
They could have sent a site wide alert to all female members warning them to stay away from this man. Not everyone would listen to this advice.
They SHOULD have reported it to the police straight away.
Why they didn’t catch him earlier.
The reason given for their lack of action in this case? The messages were being sent ‘off site’. Because email and phone numbers were exchanged there was little they could do to stop it.
His second victim reported the assault to the police. Lawrence was arrested but later released without charge. This was due to the force’s ‘charging policy’ at the time. I was disgusted when I read this. They had him in the cells and could have prevented five further attacks!
It was only in 2014 that the police realised the severity of his attacks. The case was properly investigated, with the help of the dating website.
The only one responsible.
There is only one person responsible for the actions of Jason Lawrence. Jason Lawrence himself! The man clearly needs help. (I won’t tell you what kind of help I would give him other than it would involve rusty garden shears!) because this was completely premeditated. He searched for vulnerable women on a regular basis on the site. He even managed to find someone he would later marry. He was still looking for victims on his wedding day and honeymoon. It was initially reported that she was standing by him. She later ditched him and reverted to her maiden name when the case went to trial.
As with most things that hit the front pages of the press, there is going to be some fallout over this.
The site has implemented more stringent procedures for handling complaints of this kind. Working with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to develop an initiative to spot signs in the future.
Despite this, the site (which is a paid for site) is likely to lose a significant amount of clients and revenue.
The fact that the police released him after the first arrest has not been mentioned again in the press. It might be interesting to see how charging policies have changed since then!
The safety net for online dating has been made a whole lot larger since this has come to light. While this is a good thing, I have one concern…… It is human nature to take risks. I worry sometimes that, if a safety net is too big, the risks we take get bigger too!
Online dating is still a safe environment. These cases are rare, there have been only 3 other cases similar to this reported in the press. Please use your common sense and if something doesn’t feel right then don’t do it! Find out more about staying safe here