Exposing Hughes: right or wrong?

That’s the very simple question this edition of the Media Glass House asks of the lead segment on A Current Affair on Monday night when the program headed off to the Old Dart and tracked down pedophile low-life Robert Hughes, 73.

We get it that Hughes is an abomination for what he did to kiddies on the hit TV show Hey Dad in the late 80s/early 90s but what was the program’s point? To out this prick for all the things he’s done? To demand he finally fess up? To save Pommie locals from his wicked, wicked ways? To make him move on and go shamefaced and hated on the run? To keep harassing him until he necks himself in some seedy boarding house?

The old codgers who compile the MGH know they might be on shaky and unpopular ground in not giving a flying fuck where Hughes has settled down after being deported to his home country after being granted parole after serving eight years on child-sex offences.

We might also be unpopular to state that Hughes served his time for his crimes. Probably served longer than he might have if he had admitted his guilt but that’s his decision and he’s paid for it. NSW authorities finally decided he was safe enough to release on parole. The experts ruled him a low-risk repeat offender.

But that’s us. While we might say leave the dreadful cunt alone, A Current Affair and crime reporter Simon Bouda had no qualms about “finding” Hughes.

Anchor Tracy Grimshaw kicked the segment off with: “Tonight, we find Robert Hughes as he starts a new life in the UK”. She adds shortly after.. “even though he won’t be closely monitored overseas. Hughes didn’t want to be found but we did it anyway.”

And then we have Bouda’s voiceover as he confronts Hughes in Southhampton’s main square: “Stunned. Nowhere to hide.” And then: “Living life large. Free as a bird”.

Really, Simon? Free as a bird. Bouda at one point contradicts Grimshaw’s intro by listing four rather stringent parole conditions that applied to Hughes on his arrival in the UK.

Much of the segment centres on Hey Dad footage and Hughes’ arrest, trial and conviction and is regularly interspersed with a Bouda interview with Sarah Monahan who played the Hughes character’s daughter on Hey Dad.

We get she is totally entitled to still be angry about the terrible things Hughes did to her. She’s entitled to her opinion that Hughes will reoffend again because he won’t be monitored closely enough by UK police.

But there is a lot of hysterically theatrics to Bouda’s report that the MGH questions, apart from the overall argument that Hughes is now an old man entitled to live out his life in obscurity if he obeys his parole rules.

As Bouda admits early on, Hughes “looks every bit of his 73 years”.

Bouda seems offended by the fact that Hughes’ new apartment seems “almost palacial” and “a far cry from the four by two square metre cell Hughes is used to”. Should he be made to now live in a shoebox, Simon?

Bouda seems legitimately aggrieved that Hughes and his wife could go about “hand in hand, their marriage rekindled, they often seemed lost and confused (really, Simon? It didn’t seem quite that way to us) as they explored their new surrounds”.

“But it was clear they felt they had slipped into anonymity, (really, Simon? That clear?) looking every bit the elderly couple (Simon, that’s what elderly couple do) as they walked in the park, shopped for groceries, arm in arm as they shared an umbrella in a sudden British downpour.”

But it’s Bouda’s confrontation with Hughes in that city mall that shows his expertise as a behavioural scientist and mind reader.

Listen to this: “…so oblivious that when we confront Hughes… a small smile seems to appear on his face. (we seemed to have missed that, Simon).

“I had the impression that Hughes thought (Simon, you are deadset amazing!) that he has been recognised by an adoring fan from his past life. But when he realises he is no longer anonymous, that smile turns to a silent scowl. (Simon, your definition of a scowl might need revisiting).

Bouda demands that Hughes comes clean and apologises for his crimes. What does he have to say to his victim’s claims that he will definitely offend again.

“Is there anything you want to say to her?”. Bouda: “He continues to maintain his silence. No acceptance. No denial.”

And now for Bouda’s final salvo: “With that, the former paedophile TV favourite stalked off. (Simon. Simon. Perhaps you meant walked?) The cloak of secrecy surrounding his new life dissolved.

“Robert Hughes exposed. For all the world to see.”

The MGH accepts that its writers are not young parents with children who might be playing in the Southhampton common a short distance from Hughes’ flat. Or whose kids might be attending St Michael’s preschool only a few hundred metres away. Or, heaven forbid, be on the buses and trains and other public transport Hughes and his wife were observed using.

But when is punishment for crimes finally considered over? Would A Current Affair and Simon Bouda like to see a local media campaign in Southampton to send this dreadful prick packing?

Do they want to build up some ratings-friendly anti-pedophile hysteria that ends in some poor innocent Southampton podiatrist or paediatrician with the same common surname getting a brick through their front window?

What the fuck was the point of it all? To expose Hughes for his crimes and to dissolve his obscurity?

Maybe there was a germ of a story there? Should a pedophile who has steadfastedly claimed his innocence and who refused to take part in remedial sessions in jail be allowed to live in such a built-up area? Could one of Hughes’ many parole conditions have stipulated a rural setting? An isolated retirement village well away from city parks, public transport and school playgrounds? The MGH is guessing Hughes probably wishes that had been the case with him. Simon Bouda might have even sensed Hughes seeming to wish that?

Perhaps that’s the story that could have been done with class and style without exposing were Hughes is living. A hard-nosed factual report rather than a dodgy, incorrect, introduction to a story in which A Current Affair seemed to us (thanks, Simon) determined to big-note itself for its coverage of the case over the past decade and to fulfil its desire to name and shame Hughes all over again.

But then again, a story done with class and style would probably count out A Current Affair and Simon Bouda, who the MGH suspects would be a good writer of psychological crime thrillers.