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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 June 2006, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Megan's Law
On Sunday 25 June 2006, Andrew Marr interviewed Angela Eagle MP and Marc Klaas

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Marc Klaas
Marc Klaas, Founder KlaasKids, USA

ANDREW MARR: Now, identifying where convicted paedophiles live is an idea that's had a surprise boost last weekend, when the Home Secretary said that he was going to send a junior Minister to America to see how the scheme, which is called Megan's Law over there, works.

The News of the World's been promoting this cause very vigorously and there is another convert this morning, the former Met Police Commissioner John Stevens. Megan's Law was passed by President Clinton after campaigning by parents whose children has been victims of attacks by paedophiles.

One of those parents is here, Marc Klaas, whose daughter Polly was abducted, abused and murdered.

Joining me also, former Home Office Minister Angela Eagle. Good morning to you both.

MARC KLAAS: Good morning.

ANGELA EAGLE: Good morning.

ANDREW MARR: Now there's a great debate in America, as well as here, I think, about the extent to which Megan's Law does actually protect people. In this country the proportion of children who suffer the appalling fate that your daughter suffered, at the hands of strangers, is relatively small. Most children who are killed are killed by members of their own family or people they know. Is that also the case in the States?

MARC KLAAS: Well in the States Megan's Law is not about child murder, what it is about is protecting children from individuals who would serially molest them. Therefore we created a system that number one registers sex offenders, or individuals who have been convicted of these crimes, and number 2, provides for actually quite wide public disclosure of that information, usually via the Internet. Now the good news is is that after a decade of this activity, of this policy, we're finding certain things. Number one there's not vigilantes on any great scale by any means in the United States.

ANDREW MARR: Well, if I may, I read one account which said that five people were murdered by vigilantes last year.

MARC KLAAS: I have no idea where that number comes from. My research has indicated that there were four cases. But we're talking about over half a million registered offenders in our country, all of whom are able to be accessed by the public. That an infinitesimal amount of individuals, particularly when you look at the fact that each one of these individuals is perfectly capable of committing crimes against hundreds of children during the course of their criminal history.

ANDREW MARR: Angela Eagle, it looks as if some version of this law might very well come here. John Reid is clearly interested in the idea. As a former Home Office Minister yourself are you pleased by that?

Angela Eagle MP
Angela Eagle MP

ANGELA EAGLE: Well I don't think that there's any point in pretending that I'm pleased. I think I'm very worried about it. I think the important thing if we're going to introduce any law in this very difficult area, and we are both, both aiming for the same thing which is the protection of children, we're having a debate about the best way to do it. I think the important thing is that it's evidence-based.

And I think there would be difficulty in the parliamentary Labour Party if attempts were made to introduce laws, like the Education Reform¸ that are based on assertion not evidence. So we've got to look at the evidence of what works to protect children.

ANDREW MARR: You see some people would say what further evidence do you need. If you give the communities and parents and head teachers the information about where paedophiles are living then that is a straightforward human rights, then it allows them to take any action they feel may be appropriate in terms of looking after their children.

ANGELA EAGLE: Well we have a 97% compliance with the sex offenders' register over here, that's very, very much lower, I think about 15%, in America. The people who are registered are living in communities in Britain and known to the police. The police often make their presence then known to local people who need to know. The issue is what the consequences are of making that information available to everyone.

We had a little hint of that a few years ago in Portsmouth on the estate where we had a riot. What often happens is that paedophiles are targeted, but also people who are odd or don't fit in - people who are accused of being paedophiles are then also targeted and subjected to vigilante action. I think the important thing is to ensure that we try to deal with this behaviour by therapy, and prevent it happening in the future.


MARC KLAAS: Well there were two minor incidents six years ago and nobody was killed in either one of those incidents. And in fact one of the individuals that was targeted has even come forward and endorsed what the News of the World is doing.

ANGELA EAGLE: Sorry, there was a riot...

MARC KLAAS: ...there was a minor incident ma'am, there was a minor incident and nobody was harmed during that incident.

ANGELA EAGLE: People, people were chased out of their homes and innocent people were chased out of their home.

MARC KLAAS: Now, now, we talked about fact-based evidence. I have here, from the United States Department of Justice, a document that states quite clearly and proves quite clearly, that between 1992 and the year 2000, much of that time during which we have had Megan's Law and public disclosure, the sexual molestation of children has gone down 40%. That means millions of children have not been molested that otherwise would have. There's nothing clearer than this piece of paper. And this is from the United States government, the Department of Justice.

ANGELA EAGLE: Child abuse is an appalling cycle of violence. It needs to be stopped. Many of the people who abuse children have been abused themselves. We have to look at how to deal with therapy for people who've been abused so that we can make it possible for them to live reasonable lives.

We need to look at what we can do with perhaps indeterminate sentences with compulsory treatment orders for paedophiles to see if we can break their cycle of behaviour. Above all we need to protect children, I am not convinced that Megan's Law does it.

ANDREW MARR: This going to go on and on. There's clearly not going to be a meeting of minds. But I think we've had both positions set out very well this morning. Thank you both very much indeed for talking to us.

MARC KLAAS: Thank you.

ANGELA EAGLE: Thank you.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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