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Wednesday, 29 April, 1998, 22:09 GMT 23:09 UK
Law chief seeks to stop child killer payments
Mary Bell
Mary Bell: received part of the author's advance
The Attorney-General John Morris is looking into ways to prevent the child killer Mary Bell from profiting from a controversial new book about her life.

His intervention follows an outcry over reports that Ms Bell, who was released in 1980, had received 50,000 for her co-operation in the writing of Cries Unheard.

In a statement the Attorney-General's office said: "We have noted the suggestions that action be taken to block payments to Mary Bell.

"The matter has also been drawn to our attention by the Home Secretary. It is not clear whether the Attorney-General has any power to take action. Nonetheless we are already examining the possibility.

"Any power that he does have comes from his role as protector of the public interest performed separate from government."

'Inherently repugnant'

News of the Attorney-General's action emerged as the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said he thought it "inherently repugnant" that people such as Ms Bell should make make money out of their crimes.

Tony Blair: considering change in the law
In an interview on the Internet Mr Blair hinted that he might like the law changed to ban for life certain categories of criminal from making money from books about their offences.

He said the present law prevented people making money from writing about a crime within a specified period, which he believed to be six years.

"The question is whether, in respect maybe of certain categories, it should be said you should never be able to make a profit out of it."

Shops urged to ban book

An anti-violence support group is urging bookshops to boycott the book because of the payment to Ms Bell.

The group, Mothers Against Murder and Aggression (Mama), has organised a letter-writing campaign calling on bookstores not to sell Cries Unheard.

Bookshops have not said if they will boycott the book
Ms Bell was jailed in 1968 at the age of 11 for the manslaughter of Martin Brown, four, and Brian Howe, three, in Newcastle.

Dee Warner, a founder member of Mama, said June Richardson, the mother of Martin Brown, would be in Newcastle on Saturday to rally support for a petition calling on bookshops not to stock the book.

Managers at Dillons, Waterstones and Bookworld stores in Newcastle said no decision had been made about whether to sell the book.

Author's defence

However, the book's author Gitta Sereny defended her decision to collaborate with Ms Bell for the book, which will be published next month.

Ms Sereny denied reports she handed over 50,000 to Ms Bell, but confirmed a payment had been made.

Sereny: book is in the public interest
She said: "I felt I wanted to give her the money that was advanced to me for this book because I could not use her, as everybody else has done."

"This is not a sensationalist book. It is trying to find out why a child would kill. We need to know."

The Times published extracts from the book on Tuesday - three days earlier than it had previously planned - in which Ms Bell said she had been abused as a child by her mother.

BBC News
Tony Blair: "I just think it is plain wrong"
BBC News
Gitta Sereny: "People should read it"
BBC News
Gitta Sereny says she did not think the payment would offend the families (3'24'')
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