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The BBC's Karen Allen
"There is still a long way to go before a concensus is reached"
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Laura Ahern, Parents for Megan's Law
"An issue that has been traditionally shrouded in mystery"
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Saturday, 5 August, 2000, 17:43 GMT 18:43 UK
'Sarah's Law' campaign praised
Michael and Sara Payne
Sarah's parents met News of the World executives
The parents of murdered eight-year-old Sarah Payne have thanked the public for supporting the campaign for tighter laws on policing paedophiles.

Michael and Sara Payne visited the News of the World to discuss the paper's campaign for "Sarah's Law", under which parents would have access to the location details of child sex offenders.

The government has said it will give urgent and serious consideration to the proposals.

Mrs Payne said: "The public have done this. They should be very proud of themselves."

'Sarah's Law' will never bring Sarah back but this will give parents back their power

Sara Payne

Their visit came a day after the paper suspended its controversial "naming and shaming" policy of publishing the photographs and locations of child sex offenders.

The paper stopped identifying paedophiles after reaching an agreement with police and other agencies to work jointly towards a change in the law.

In the United States, parents have the right to information on the whereabouts of convicted sex offenders under "Megan's Law", introduced after the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl.

'Victory for readers'

Home Office minister Paul Boateng told Radio 4's Today programme there were important arguments concerning "the degree of access and knowledge of the general public to information of a general nature".

But he added: "Specific names and addresses can only be released where police and probation service working together deem it proper."

Stuart Kuttner, managing editor of the News of the World, said: "It is a victory for the thousands of readers who have written to us, and for the little Sarahs and children out there who may have been saved from paedophiles living in the streets or their neighbourhood."

Former Home Secretary Michael Howard
Michael Howard: Change could increase risks for children

But former home secretary Michael Howard has warned that a public register of paedophiles could increase risks to children.

Mr Howard said the issue of a public register was considered "very carefully" by Conservatives when they introduced the current Sex Offender Register in 1997.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live it would "certainly make sense" to look at the law again as it had been on the statute book for three years.

And he said the public emotion following the murder of Sarah Payne should not be ignored.

But he warned a register risked vigilante attacks - which "no civilised society could tolerate" - and could lead fewer offenders to comply with registration requirements.

Vigilante violence

He said those responsible for any changes "need to consider very carefully the consequences of any decisions they make, to think through the implications of any changes and make sure we don't actually increase the risk to our children".

A series of vigilante attacks began days after the launch of the newspaper campaign as enraged communities turned on both sex offenders and innocent people mistaken for paedophiles.

But the paper denied the attacks had played any part in its decision to end the campaign.

The paper wants its suggestions for "Sarah's Law" - planned in conjunction with the child protection agency the NSPCC, the police and the probation service - to come into force by the end of the year.

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