BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Emma Howard
"Innocent people are being mistakenly targeted"
 real 56k

The News of the World's Stuart Kuttner
"This is not a vigilantes' charter"
 real 28k

Sunday, 30 July, 2000, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Paedophiles 'driven into hiding'
news of the world
News of the World: Unrepentant
The News of the World is facing more criticism over its continuing campaign to identify convicted paedophiles.

The paper argues that its decision to publish the names and pictures of 34 more sex offenders in its Sunday's edition is in the best interests of children.

Their campaign was prompted by the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne, who went missing while playing in fields in West Sussex.

We believe that people should know if there is a dangerous sex offender living close by

News of the World
But senior probation officers say the drive to "name and shame" offenders will hinder their child protection work.

The Association of Chief Officers of Probation (ACOP) says it has evidence the paper's campaign is encouraging many paedophiles to move towns, change their identity and break off contact with monitoring agencies.

It says the campaign will make it more difficult to keep track of offending paedophiles in the long term, and cause untold damage to their families.

I feel it would be wise for the News of the World to listen to the advice of the police

Chris Smith
The comments were echoed by the Chief Constable of Lancashire police, Pauline Clare, who added: "What the News of the World is doing can be seen as quite harmful".

On BBC 1's Breakfast with Frost, Culture Secretary, Chris Smith, questioned the newspaper's methods.

"It is a noble motive... to want to ensure the issue of paedophiles is more widely discussed and children are properly protected.

"But I fear that this is not the right way of going about doing it and I feel it would be wise for the News of the World to listen to the advice of the police on this."

But the News of the World's managing editor Stuart Kuttner insisted: "This is not a vigilantes' charter. We believe that people should know if there is a dangerous sex offender living close by. It is as simple as that."

'Unforeseen damage'

A a spokesman for ACOP said that the paper's campaign was causing 'unforeseen damage'.

"Wives and mothers of men with convictions are fearful for their safety and that of their children," he said.

"Many of these families frequently include a victim. Unforeseen damage to the lives of third parties is considerable."

Sarah Payne
Sarah's body was found almost two weeks ago
Leading children's charities have also joined in with the controversy, saying the government should launch a major public education campaign to offer practical advice on how to protect children.

The NSPCC, the Children's Society and ChildLine say the police and other agencies should have clear guidelines for informing local communities about sex offenders, but warn that unmanaged media campaigns can have dangerous consequences.

The current publicity has already led to further vigilante attacks on innocent people.

On Friday night a group of around 60 people waving banners and shouting abuse attacked a house in Plymouth, throwing paint at a house they had mistaken for the home of a paedophile.

The family inside, including young children, have been moved for their own safety.

Mistaken identity

Stuart Elford, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: "It is always the danger that people can get the wrong identification, the wrong address, and even when they get the right address, of a known paedophile, they can drive the person underground."

Last week, an innocent Manchester man was confronted in his home by neighbours who thought he was one of the 49 individuals named in the newspaper.

Although the News of the World's campaign has won the support of Sara and Michael Payne - the parents of murdered Sarah - they have appealed to people not to take the law into their own hands.

Mrs Payne said: "Anyone who decides on vigilante action - you are hurting the campaign more... You are teaching kids that violence is OK, and it's not," she said.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

24 Jul 00 | UK
To name and shame
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories