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The BBC's Karen Allen
"ministers have promised to introduce changes quickly2
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Leigh Moore, Association of Child Abuse Lawyers
"Only dealing with the tip of the iceberg"
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David Niven, Action on Child Exploitation
"Another bit of knee-jerk legislation"
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Ian Cawsey MP, Home Affairs Select Committee
"The temptation is to respond quickly to the media"
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Sunday, 6 August, 2000, 18:57 GMT 19:57 UK
Tougher paedophile laws pledge
News of the World
The paper has stopped 'naming and shaming' - for now
The UK Government has said it will strengthen the law on paedophiles in the wake of a campaign to name and shame sex offenders.

But it will not give parents access to the sex offenders register.

The News of the World newspaper, which has pushed for legal changes following Sarah Payne's murder, says it might revive its campaign if its demands are not met.

The Home Office believes the decision to name sex offenders should rest with the police and probation services.

The paper's demand for a so-called "Sarah's Law" - giving parents the right to information on paedophiles - has been backed by Sarah's parents, Michael and Sara.

It will just be another bit of knee-jerk legislation

David Niven
Action on Child Exploitation
But child protection and legal experts have cast doubt on whether the proposals are workable.

The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers said giving the public controlled access to the register of child sex offenders could encourage vigilante attacks and would not tackle the main problem.

"What particularly concerns me is that the majority of children are abused by people they know," said the association's Leigh Moore.

"If we were to have a 'Sarah's Law' we would just be dealing with the tip of the iceberg."

Similar legislation - known as Megan's Law - was introduced in the United States four years ago following the rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka.

Law's worth 'unproven'

But David Niven, of Action on Child Exploitation, warned against copying that model.

"It will just be another bit of knee-jerk legislation," he said. "I don't think it's been proved yet in America that it works. That is surely the greatest test of any legislation."

And the Bishop of Dorking, the Right Reverend Ian Brackley, who is giving the sermon at a memorial service for Sarah at Guildford Cathedral, warned against rushing laws onto the statute book.

Home Office minister Paul Boateng
Paul Boateng: promised government response
He said: "It is very difficult to talk about laws like this so close to what has happened. We ought not to let our hearts rule our heads."

Home Office minister Paul Boateng told BBC One's Breakfast With Frost programme that although the government would listen to the proposals, giving parents direct access to paedophiles' names and addresses was not the solution.

"Whilst we are concerned to better protect children and strengthen existing arrangements, decisions about whether or not people are told names and addresses are not matters for newspapers, not matters for governments, they are matters for the police and probation service working together."

The government had strengthened legislation to protect children every year since coming to power, he said, and would continue to do so.

News of the World columnist Vivienne Parry said the paper would continue to fight for "controlled access" to information for parents.

There is no longer a need to name people

Vivienne Parry
News of the World
"Because we are absolutely committed and focused on pushing [Sarah's Law] through, there is no longer a need to name people."

However, she warned that the paper would resume its "name and shame" campaign if necessary.

Several innocent people have been mistaken for paedophiles after that campaign's launch.

The newspaper columnist said: "We are very sorry it has happened to them, but I don't think we would have changed our action."

Sara and Michael Payne
Sara and Michael Payne have called for Tony Blair's support
Sarah Payne's parents, Michael and Sara, have asked Tony Blair to support the campaign personally after he wrote to them shortly after their daughter's disappearance.

He said: "If there is anything I can do for you, let me know."

Sara Payne told the News of the World: "I know he is a man of his word and does his best to keep his promises.

"So I hope he will keep this one and give us and the News of the World the support we need to make Sarah's Law come true."

The paper wants its suggestions for "Sarah's Law" - planned 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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