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The BBC's Ben Brown
"Police are taking no chances"
 real 56k

Robin Corbett MP, Home Affairs Select Committee
"This was the known and predictable result of the irresponsibility of the News of the World"
 real 56k

Father Vincent Convery
"I know what forgiveness demands of people"
 real 28k

Neighbour, Angela Pittinger
"We want children to live a normal life"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 9 August, 2000, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
Families flee paedophile protests
Firemen tend burnt out car in Portsmouth
Mob justice has forced a city council to take action
Hundreds of residents have again taken to the streets of an estate in Portsmouth to protest against suspected paedophiles living in the area.

The disturbances in Paulsgrove have been so bad in recent days that four families not connected with paedophiles at all have asked to be rehoused.

Police say the public reaction has been hysterical and that innocent people are suffering.

The trouble began when the News of the World started its naming and shaming of paedophiles campaign. The paper has now stopped that policy but the protests are continuing.

Portsmouth City Council offered to rehouse several residents after five continuous nights of demonstrations and has also agreed a five-point "peace plan" with police and protest leaders.

If we are to move forward we must have forgiveness in our hearts

Father Vincent Convery

It has agreed to hold regular meetings with protest leaders, appoint a liaison officer to work with residents, and help them campaign for change in the laws governing the release of paedophiles.

Protesters have agreed to consider handing over their lists of alleged paedophiles, and all sides will work together to promote children's and public safety on the Paulsgrove estate.

Elsewhere in the country, innocent people have been targeted and a suspected paedophile is reported to have killed himself after a vigilante attack on his home left him in fear of his life.

Police officers
Police guard the flat of a suspected sex offender in Portsmouth

Portsmouth's director of social services Rob Hutchinson said both convicted sex offenders and innocent people wrongly identified had approached the council.

Those with "bona fide" cases would be moved "to a place of safety on a temporary basis", he said.

Accusing those involved in violence of "hijacking" residents' legitimate concerns, he added: "It's become a public safety issue rather than a real debate about how paedophiles are managed when they are in the community."

Protests have escalated from peaceful demonstrations into riots with police coming under fire, cars being burned and windows smashed.

Mob justice

Father Vincent Convery, a local Catholic priest who lost his own brother in the troubles in Northern Ireland, called for forgiveness.

"This idea of excluding people, it's almost like treating them like lepers," he said. "I know what forgiveness demands of people.

News of the World
News of the World dropped its "name and shame" campaign

"They [in Northern Ireland] have come to realise that after 30 years of violence, if we are to move forward we must have forgiveness in our hearts.

"A very small minority of people are trying to use violence to win. I wonder whether the council rehousing those in fear is giving in to the violence?"

The angry "mob justice" has had devastating effects elsewhere in the country.

A group of 15 anti-paedophile vigilantes chased and beat a 29-year-old Asian man in Whitley, Berkshire, on Monday.

In Oldham, Greater Manchester, a 54-year-old grandfather is believed to have died after taking an overdose because he was "literally scared to death".


James White's solicitor, Milton Firman, said he went to pieces after being hounded out of his home when neighbours discovered his crimes.

Before his death White admitted a number of indecent assaults against children, one earlier this year, the others dating back to the early 1980s.

The News of the World has called for vigilance not vigilantism after halting the publication of names of sex offenders following protests from the government, police and care authorities.

The paper said it had nothing to do with Mr White's death as he was not even named in its For Sarah campaign, launched after the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne last month.

The paper wants legislation giving parents the right to access names of sex offenders living in their communities.

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