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Friday, 4 August, 2000, 02:53 GMT 03:53 UK
Mob violence at home of 'paedophile'
Firemen tend burnt out car
An angry mob set fire to a car and damaged property
More than 70 police officers were called to a block of flats in Portsmouth as a crowd of 100 people besieged the home of an alleged sex offender.

The crowd threw stones, overturned and set light to a car and damaged a block of council flats in the Paulsgrove area of the city, in the disturbance which began at about 1830 BST on Thursday.

The vast majority of decent people have had to suffer an appalling experience

Supt Bob Golding, Hampshire Police

One eye witness described what occurred as a "minor riot". The suspected offender's property was ransacked, and a police sergeant was taken to hospital after being hit by a stone.

The man at the centre of the incident was reported to have abused more than 140 children.

The paper has been running a campaign to "name and shame" paedophiles in the wake of the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne.

On Thursday night local people carried pictures of him enlarged from the News of the World and the burnt-out car is said to have belonged to his sister.

Residents said organisers had co-ordinated the attack with mobile phones and text messages, arranging to meet outside the man's house.

Police said the target of the attack had left his home before the attack and was now in the care of social services.

'Utterly outrageous'

Hampshire Police spokesman Richard Horobin said no arrests were made in the disturbance although police will study CCTV footage to assess whether any action should be taken.

He said the gathering started as a peaceful demonstration.

"It later developed into something more nasty. People started smashing windows of the local council offices and those of the neighbours of the man being targeted.

"One car was ablaze on its roof and another around the back of the block was badly damaged.

"A police officer was hit in the face by a rock and received stitches at the scene."

He added that the demonstration appeared to have been prompted by the News of the World campaign, describing it as "very unhelpful".

Superintendent Bob Golding of Hampshire Police said: "It's utterly outrageous and totally disgraceful and the vast majority of decent people have had to suffer an appalling experience."

He added that recent "name and shame" campaigns in the newspapers "caused more difficulties than they solved".

Targeted by mob

Earlier on Monday it emerged that police were protecting a 55-year-old south London man after 500 leaflets were distributed wrongly accusing him of being a child abuser.

The News of the World's campaign has already been strongly criticised by police, social services and human rights groups.

On Thursday police in Cleveland said the paper's campaign had seriously jeopardised their operation to capture a convicted paedophile living on a Spanish island.

They said the News of The World's publication of Stephen Glen Featherstone's picture on Sunday caused him to break cover and make preparations to go underground.

But the paper points to the fact that Featherstone was arrested anyway - it says as a direct result of its "naming and shaming".

The News of The World - backed by the family of Sarah Payne - says parents have a right to know if they are living near someone who is a threat to their children.

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24 Jul 00 | UK
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