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Monday, 14 August, 2000, 08:18 GMT 09:18 UK
Has naming and shaming gone too far?
The News of the World has ended its controversial naming and shaming campaign after violent disturbances erupted outside the home of an alleged paedophile in the UK.
There were violent disturbances outside the home of an alleged paedophile in Portsmouth, who was named by the UK tabloid newspaper.
But the paper - backed by the family of Sarah Payne - still says parents have a right to know if they are living near someone who is a threat to their children.
Is naming paedophiles an appropriate way to protect our children? Did the News of the World's campaign go too far?
This Talking Point is now closed. A selection of your e-mails are posted below.
The paper prints half naked teens to sell it'self... and yet names and shames others. Maybe it's time for a re think about that one, NOTW!
We need a website that exposes these paedophiles so that parents can protect their children. Why should paedophiles always be 'protected' for the lives they are ruining?
The so-called 'vigilantes' (ie the witch-hunting mobs triggered by the intended incitement of the News of the World)are themselves guilty of child abuse, by using children to chant messages of hate and 'learn' violent and unreasoning behaviour.
Would someone please explain to me why on earth we pay for these sick people to spend a few years living it up in prison? My grandma always used to say "where there's a will there's away". I think this saying really says everything we need to consider.
Has it occurred to anyone that the "guilty" people targeted have the same legal redress as anyone else ? Whether you like it or not, once they've done their time they are as innocent as the rest of us.
Sharon Wade-Ferrell, Australia
I always wondered what type of people read "The News Of The World" - now I know!
Irresponsible idiots with no respect for law, order or the common man.
Well done, "News Of The World", you've "outed" morons throughout the UK!
I am concerned about the children in the families of those being harassed by the protesters. Have they thought about the damage being done to these children, particularly those whom have been targeted in error?
Naming and shaming is a necessary tool to require the law to be changed. This is not about an eye for an eye but recognising that a person who gets sexual gratification in a manner which is a threat to society, cannot become part of that society until he no longer carries that threat. For society there can be no difference between someone who gets sexual gratification from the act of murder and someone who gets sexual gratification from acts with children.
Who are the "vigilantes" (read: hysterical, mindless mob) of Portsmouth going to attack next when they've succeeded in driving away both paedophiles and the innocent victims of their misplaced hatred?
All this from a newspaper that prints pictures of semi-naked teenagers as a form of titillation.
The so-called human beings in the Paulsgrove community that are conducting this witch hunt against so-called paedophiles are a disgrace to the human race.
It is they who should be locked up for terrorising innocent people.
Since when did mob rule have any place in a civilised society?
The way they have behaved has echoes of the way the Nazis behaved towards the Jews in Germany before WW2.
No, I don't think that the "News of the World" has gone too far in naming and shaming child abusers - they should be named. I saw one interview with an abuser and he said that he was terrified but he never mentioned anything about the terror that he had put his young victims through. Again, it is the sad case of the abuser having more protection than the abused
I hope the innocent victims of NOTW's campaign sue the paper for all it's worth. There is probably no worse accusation that could be thrown at a man than the one of child abuse, so NOTW has a duty of care to get its facts right, especially as they've actually put innocent people in physical danger (the scenes from Portsmouth look like something out of a sixteenth century witch hunt). Of course, if paedophiles were locked away with no possibility of remission, the problem wouldn't have occurred in the first place.
If there is to be a public register for paedophiles, then there should also be one for vigilantes!
While it is undeniably true that child abusers are inexcusably evil, it is also true that the great majority of crimes against children take place behind the closed doors of the family home.
Secondly, is it not entirely possible that some of the incidents taking place against innocent families in Portsmouth and other towns may be instigated by people who have a grudge against a family member and know that they only have to start the rumour mill running to see that family off for good?
Child molesters can NEVER be cured, locking them up away from children and then making a decision that they are safe again, is ludicrous. They have not had the same stimulation while locked away, and its too risky to allow them out again.
If naming and shaming these monsters gets the rules tightened then I am for it, but the new rules must really address the problems.
Firstly by causing these abusers to flee into hiding they disappear and being untraceable they pose a greater threat. If the authorities do not know the location of such people they cannot keep them under observation. That means paedophiles could be lurking at your children's school gates.
Secondly as we have seen mob violence has been directed at innocent people. If you have the same surname then it appears that makes you a legitimate target. Evidently the rioters are using the publics fears about child abusers to target people they don't like, even though those families are, as stated, innocent. This is reminiscent of the witch-hunts of old, accuse people of a vile crime and then act as judge and jury. The innocent families have no redress.
Just read the 'what to do if there is a pervert on your doorstep' as provided by NOTW. If parents are not taking on these very obvious responsible points, then they are too stupid to have children. My parents knew where I was, we had a time as to when I should be back at the house, I know my address and phone number, I know not to talk to strangers. If I was late home (and I often was, being a thoughtless kid) my mum would come out and look for me. Most embarrassing for me, annoying no doubt for my mum, but she took care of me. Parents are not trained, perhaps they should be? Sometimes the obvious thing to do is only obvious in hindsight. I find it worrying that parents seem to be putting responsibility for their children to teachers, government and now newspapers. Parents, first and foremost, have responsibility for their child.
It may seem like a good idea but what it does is push these people underground which means that they can't be treated by doctors or watched over by the police.
Naming and shaming has simply encouraged lynch law and will not solve anything.
The public disorder emanating from the News of the World's naming and shaming campaign comes as no surprise. Much as I detest paedophiles, it is inappropriate that the News of the World should be conducting this campaign.
I am becoming increasingly bored of hearing the words "name and shame". When will the people who attacked someone they wrongly suspected of being a paedophile be "named and shamed"? The fact that the News of the World campaign struck desperate fear into a man to make him kill himself makes me angry to the point of rage.
I am amazed at the number of people who wrote in with sympathy and concern for these terrible, evil monsters. Yes, everyone's human rights should be protected UNLESS they prey on the most helpless in society. When they harm innocent children, they are no longer deserving of any rights or privileges. The children deserve our sympathy and help; these monstrous criminals deserve nothing but prison and isolation.
Of course I agree that everything should be done to protect our children from paedophiles, but what the press has recently done is unacceptable. They are not helping anybody but they are violating the human rights of paedophiles as well as creating a serious risk to the lives of innocent men. We have to look at the roots of the problem to solve it - and the right institution to do so is certainly not the press.
Anyone who wants to treat paedophiles with compassion should invite one to live with them, in their house, with their family, and leave them to look after their kids. If they find that thought unacceptable then why should they force these monsters onto the rest of society in the name of "human rights" etc?
I am really happy that they ended the campaign. They have paid their debts to society and should be allowed to roam free. Maybe they should also be under psychological observation. That is all you can do because you can never find all the paedophiles and lock them up.
I agree with the vast number of comments made, that the News of the World's campaign is counter productive.
My greater fear is that it is a symptom of a culture being bred in the UK. It is the same culture of intolerance under which William Hague stirs feelings up against asylum seekers, retains laws like section 28, and produces crazy 'football violence' in Charleoi.
This campaign is whipping up mob hysteria and little better than the Salem witch hunts. Thank Goodness there are a few like Graham who are able to speak with the voice of common sense.
It's a shame we have a system of policing/justice in this country that makes people feel they have to resort to this sort of tactic. What's worse?
Vigilantes or paedophiles, neither are wanted,
but with this tactic we have both.
Angus Gulliver, UK
Only when the law-abiding majority are expected to put up with the paedophile in their midst (conveniently located next door to the sweet shop) with no legal means of redress do the claws of vigilante justice take hold. I think convicted paedophiles should be locked up until it can be proved they are no longer any danger to society, regardless of the time that takes.
The trouble is with naming and shaming is that we now have a situation where paedophiles in the community are now in danger from vigilantes. This means that the police then have to provide more protection for these people, thus soaking up more money and more resources.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
I would like to know where the NOTW gets the names from. Data protection act seems to have been breached here. So Mr Editor answer me that question.
Of course it has. The only reason gutter rags
like The News Of The "World" ever get involved
with anything is for publicity to boost circulation.
Most of the time it's pages are completely full of sexual based stories;
"3 in a bed Vicar", "5 times a night Postie", "Phoar, wot a stunner - Sharon
from Natwich, aged 17". Total hypocrisy. But then
the egomaniac ex-public schoolboys who run these rags know perfectly well
what they're doing - making money and saving their jobs.
I find it disturbing that the murder of a child has been hijacked by a tacky 'newspaper' in order to boost it's flagging circulation sales, who thinks nothing of displaying semi-clad females - some as young as 16 in its paper for male titillation.
Pretty tough opinions about paedophile's. All absolutely right and maybe not even tough enough.
There is ample evidence of paedophilia being pretty incurable form of deviation, a very terrible form. In my opinion the paedophile's once determined to be one beyond any doubt should not be named and shamed but simply isolated from children for the rest of their lives. However some caution should be exercised like defining again what is a child or minor. Otherwise people with quite normal instincts will be branded as paedophile's and that would again be a terrible injustice.
Nothing is as simple as it appears.
The News of the World campaign was probably a little misguided but very much in touch with popular opinion. If it come from a newspaper that did not have a reputation for sexual titillation then it could be treated more seriously.
Some form of drug treatment that if not followed continuously, would result in offenders being returned to prison would seem to be one way to reassure public opinion.
I have to agree with Dan. What has been the effect in the States of 'Megan's Law'? From the tone of people's comments below, the only solution that appears to be acceptable to those writers would appear to be to have Paedophiles placed in ghettos or concentration camps where they can be kept apart from the rest of society.
Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands (ex. UK)
OK, parents. You hold tightly onto your silly little lists of 'known offenders'. Of course, parents lucky enough to live in an area with no known offenders can now let their kids run wild, with no responsible adults watching them. They must be safe, because all the child molesters have been named, right? Of course not! There are always going to be others, perhaps who haven't yet offended, and they may start with your child. This 'name and shame' campaign is just an excuse for irresponsible parents to avoid taking REAL care of their children.
I am disgusted at the News of the World's cynical exploitation of a grieving family in order to sell more papers. All it does is to encourage a witch-hunt in which the innocent are as likely to be persecuted as the potentially guilty. We are now being brainwashed into believing that dangerous child-abusers lurk round every corner.
However, unfortunate it is for society, action must be taken. Be aware that registered sex offenders may have committed crimes against children and/or adults. Megan's Law provides residents and parents the opportunity to be proactive by taking necessary precautions to protect themselves and their children from the realistic threat of high risk sex offenders.
Punishment has many justifications and the most potent of these is deterrent. The logical deterrent for such criminals is some easy identification - such as tattooing on the forehead -, which will enable identification by parents - and like-minded offenders (with whom they may wish to associate). A small island - preferably inside the Arctic Circle - should be set aside as refuge for these people without any compulsion for the tattooed to live there. I know that most paedophiles operate within their own small social circles but those discovered and fairly convicted may prefer this fate to permanent castration. Surely the criminal law exists as a preferred alternative to lynch mob rule, but this alternative will only have popular support if its teeth are as sharp. I can empathise with all parties in this argument but at present this is easier with Sarah's parents.
I do not want to live in a society where children are not adequately protected against those who would abuse them. But neither do I want to live by mob rule with street corner lynchings. I understand that feelings are running high, but firebombing people's cars and street riots are not a fitting memorial for Sarah Payne. May she rest in peace.
David, London, UK
Here in the US, they have the rule that the neighbourhood where a sex crime offender moves into has to be informed of that person's whereabouts, as well as the level of crime that they committed. The other day we had some police knock on our door informing us that someone had moved into a house about two miles away from us. I think it's a very good idea... and no, his house has not been burned down.
I would publish the names of the paedophiles and put them on the internet. The protection of the child outweighs the empathy for the criminal.
My former local council in North London disagrees with naming and shaming but as an uncle to pre-school children, I support it. And once again, randy consenting underage teens (and it's always the boy that gets the blame when it takes two) should be kept off the register, that's a waste of taxpayers' money taking them to court in the first place.
Yes it's gone too far. Apart from being counter-productive it has hailed the ridiculous News of the World as a guardian of decency and a spearhead in a serious debate. Has anybody stopped to consider what this paper actually prints every week?
So you find out that a paedophile lives around the corner. Then what? Move? Where to? Move the paedophile? On what authority, and where to? What is achieved by this so-called "naming and shaming"?
Who do you feel sorry for, the criminal or the victim? The way you answer that question will answer the other one.
If the point of 'name and shame' is to protect the innocent, why not also pin-up mug shots of known muggers, burglars, car thieves and any other offenders who threaten life or property?
Patrick Seurre, UK
What the recent events in Portsmouth highlight is the attitude of the authorities, councils and housing associations in housing paedophiles. Once again we see convicted paedophiles being housed or allowed to settle in areas like flats and 'council estates' where you get, by their very nature, high concentrations of children. You wouldn't give a convicted robber a job guarding a bank, so what's going on here?
Kirk O'Connor, UK
Yes - of course something has to be done
about protecting paedophiles but if the authority's
aren't supportive of the tabloid's campaign
can we trust the information printed.
There are innocent people out there who
are being accused by "mobs".
So 110,000 are to be named from a population of 55m or so. Thus one in 500 will be named, or some 200 in my town alone. Maybe we should spend a little less time playing vigilante, and a little more worrying about why we have so many in the first place.
Mike Holmes, Scotland
No sensible person condones the vigilante violence we are currently seeing, but the only answer is for paedophiles who are at risk of re-offending to be removed from society. Stopping the naming and shaming is like telling shopkeepers to leave their doors open at night because it is hindering burglars.
Before the News Of The World started this, 97% of ex-offenders were complying with the restraints and orders put upon them. To my mind that is pretty good.
Now the News Of the World is will force that figure down, and has already caused attacks on innocent people.
I think that measures should always be solely to protect our children, not sell more newspapers.
Margaret Watts, Canada
I am appalled by the needless murder of little Sarah Payne but I feel that the News of the World is making these sick individuals go into hiding. Trying to keep a track on them will be much harder for the police and social services.
What else can be done to these people when we have such a weak penalisation system?
I have a daughter and I will never accept a sex offender living near us. Kids should know that we care about them and we will give our life to protect them.
One downside of the name and shame tactic is that we will see more of them coming over to places like this to prey on poor families and their children as this is a global problem! What do we do now? Normal treatment does not work. Public pressure might do the trick.
Having 3 children of my own, one of which had an unfortunate incident 2 years ago (not of sexual molestation thank heavens) but still something that haunts her, I would like to know who is around the corner to watch out for.
Andy Bannister, UK
Is the News of the World not just pandering to the basest instincts of an ill-educated and thoughtless populace? Even if a majority of the population believes the impromptu vigilante action which the paper has encouraged to be acceptable, this does not make it just. Freedom from this kind of persecution is a basic liberty that must be extended to all, regardless of their crimes or sexual predilections. The logical conclusion to the News of the World's actions is, ultimately, the replacement of civil society by the lynch mob.
The News of the World editor Ms Wade herself has assured the police, charities and MPs that she does not intend to act irresponsibly and provoke mob violence. And how is she going to deliver on that? Perhaps the News of the World plans to put in place some means of checking if each paper buyer intends to act violently against their local named 'monster'. Perhaps Ms Wade should order newsagents to refuse to sell the relevant newspapers to people unless they swear that they are non-violent, sensible types.
Surely we have been trying to be tough with paedophiles for long enough, and that hasn't worked. So maybe we should throw our weight behind therapy and rehab for a while and see if it works.
I am appalled with the News of the World's 'Name and Shame' campaign, what gives them the right to put people's lives in danger. If convicted paedophiles are a danger to children, then they should never be allowed into society in the first place. Paedophiles are the most disgusting and base people around, but they still have a right to stay alive. They need to be removed from society, not hounded down by the press. It seems that we're not getting to the root of the problem.
I work for a firm of Solicitors who on occasion represent sex offenders. I should add that I do not work in this Department. A few years ago a case was dismissed on a technicality. The man had abused two young boys. Last year he committed a series of similar offences. If someone like that lived close to my four grandsons, I would dearly like to know and I doubt there are many other Grandparents and Parents who feel any different. We must have ways to protect our young, even if the law is at times inadequate.
I am disgusted by the thoughtless, impulsive reaction of the tabloid newspaper to the murder of Sarah Payne. Firstly this stupid act has already given rise to two cases of vigilante violence. Secondly this had instilled paranoia into parents' minds, who now are worried that their children may be attacked. Thirdly, I believe that if someone has paid their dues to society they should be allowed to rebuild their life in peace. Society's negative view of these convicted criminals exemplifies the cynicism within it.
Roy Cahill, UK
After people have been victimised in cases of mistaken identity, the recklessness of News of the World has become plain to everyone except the staff of that comic. Perhaps the point should be made more forcefully by someone publishing the names and addresses of News of the World staff on the web.
Sexual Offenders against children are required to give their names and addresses to the police who in turn inform Social Services of their whereabouts. Naming these people will force them underground making it much more difficult for the authorities to track their movements. Where do we draw the line or should we start persecuting everyone. Child sex offenders, like all sex offenders need help. The sooner we start realising this and stop trying to come up with narrow minded ideas (News of the World) the better!
What is it with these "do-gooders" who have dragged this country down to be the pandering mess it is now? You make many people sick with your belief that someone disturbed enough to interfere with children deserves a "second chance."
In almost all examples of criminal activity, had the punishment been appropriate, few would re-offend - the thought of returning to prison should be too horrific. The money wasted on prisoners is often more than pensioners are expected to survive on these days and sentences are cut too short too often.
The legal system has become twisted to benefit the criminal, leaving the victim to clean up the mess over and over.
Yes - these perverts should be named - they don't deserve a normal life any more than an innocent child deserves to have its normal life destroyed
Zoe Humphreys, UK
Let's have a points system like driving, with the death penalty the mandatory sentence if set points are exceeded.
With an 11 point system, you could receive a fixed non-custodial sentence, a fine and one point for a minor offence like indecent exposure. 10 points and a ten-year fixed (no parole) custodial term for serious crimes. More than 10 points incurs a mandatory execution (subject to appeal but not sentence reduction). A second offence would have the fixed penalty PLUS the previous sentence added on, so for instance a second conviction of rape following a conviction for indecent exposure would pay the fine, then serve double the time followed by the non-custodial sentence.
Perhaps the slate could be wiped clean after a set period for each offence - say 10 years for indecent exposure, 25 for indecent assault etc, so there is a possibility that you can remove yourself from the sex offenders' register if you can prove over time that you are rehabilitated.
04 Aug 00 | UK
Paedophile flees vigilantes
03 Aug 00 | UK
Innocent man branded child abuser
23 Jul 00 | UK
Top policeman condemns shame list
24 Jul 00 | UK
Sarah's parents back 'name and shame'
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