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Sunday, 1 September, 2002, 08:12 GMT 09:12 UK
Sex offenders' register 'effective tool'
Children
Some think the register fails to protect children
A leading children's charity has backed the effectiveness of the Sex Offenders Register - set up five years ago to monitor people convicted of serious sexual offences.

The NSPCC's head of policy Liz Atkins told the BBC the register had proved to be a "useful tool" in monitoring sex offenders.

But she called for an extension of treatment services for offenders and longer prison sentences for dangerous paedophiles.

And she rejected calls for the public to have access to the register in order to know if convicted paedophiles were living in their area.

What we do not support at the NSPCC is uncontrolled access to information on sex offenders

Liz Atkins
NSPCC
The News of the World began a campaign to allow public access following the murder of Sarah Payne two years ago.

It argued the register did not go far enough in protecting children and renewed its push for a change in the law after the killings of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

But Ms Atkins said: "What we do not support at the NSPCC is uncontrolled access to information on sex offenders."

She said the police already divulged such information to schools or individuals in cases where children were at risk.

And in the wake of Sarah Payne, community representatives have been recruited to sit on multi-agency public protection panels in 42 areas covering England and Wales.

Register 'ineffective'

The register was seen by many at the time of its launch as a breakthrough in the fight against paedophiles.

Ms Atkins said: "I think it has been a useful tool because it does allow the police to monitor the whereabouts of sex offenders when they leave prison, and therefore to more ably assess the risk posed by a particular sex offender."

She said the compliance rate of more than 97% of offenders registering with police showed its effectiveness, especially in comparison to a 50% rate in the US.

But she called for a nationwide community education programme on how to best protect children, and an increase in treatment services for sex abusers.

She called for paedophiles who may not have committed an offence to come forward for help.

Her plea for increased medical resources comes weeks after one of Europe's leading paedophile clinics closed in Surrey.

The pioneering Wolvercote centre in Epsom, which offered unique residential care to offenders, shut its doors after the Department of Health sold the site to developers.

The children┐s' charity Barnardo's has warned the register is only one part of the "child protection jigsaw" and the fight against sex abuse.

With convictions for child abuse so low, a spokesman said, the register was ineffective in dealing with people who never come before the courts.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Liz Atkins, NSPCC
"It is very important that there is a nationwide community education programme"
Tink Palmer, Barnardo's
"We are asking the government to take a strategic approach to this issue"
See also:

31 Jul 02 | England
27 Jun 02 | Scotland
13 Jun 02 | Politics
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