Page last updated at 15:25 GMT, Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Abuser's 'right' to new identity

By Simon Hall
Home Affairs correspondent, BBC South West

Vanessa George. Pic: Devon and Cornwall Police
A new identity for George could cost taxpayers tens of thousands of pounds

An "evil" nursery worker given an indeterminate jail term for sexually abusing the young children in her care could be given a new identity and home when she is released.

Senior detectives have told BBC News the seriousness of threats against Vanessa George means the Human Rights Act could be used to protect her at the taxpayers' expense.

When George arrived at Plymouth Magistrates' Court for her first appearance in June, police struggled to prevent an angry crowd breaking through specially-erected barriers to reach the prison van.

Inside the court, men and women screamed abuse and threw themselves at the secure glass of the dock, trying to attack George, while some others threw objects, spat and wrestled with police officers, as they tried to reach her.

It was one of the most venomous outpourings of rage and disgust ever seen at the city court.

Vanessa George arriving at Plymouth Magistrates' Court in June
Police held back an angry crowd when George first appeared

Senior detectives from Devon and Cornwall Police expect that such anger - and the threats made against her - will mean George, who must serve at least seven years in prison, will get a new identity.

The cost to the taxpayers could run into tens of thousands of pounds and the parents of children who attended Little Ted's Nursery in Laira have described it as both galling and wrong.

One mother, who cannot be identified, said: "She should just be released and if people get at her and do damage to her, it's what she deserves at the end of the day."

The government will only grant a new identity to those deemed to be at serious risk of harm, but article two of the Human Rights Act guarantees the "right to life" and criminals can, and have, used this to argue for protection, claiming their lives would be at risk without it.

'Sustained threat'

In the most extreme cases, such as criminals who have given evidence against organised crime gangs, the new identity can involve being given plastic surgery and a new home abroad.

But senior detectives have told BBC News they do not believe that will happen with George, who would be most at risk in the South West of England.

Some parents believe George does not deserve protection

It is more likely she will be provided with a new name and fictitious background and moved to a secure home fitted with a panic alarm somewhere else in the UK.

The process is managed by a covert unit within the Metropolitan Police, which is so secretive that even the chief constable of any force area she is moved to is unlikely to know.

A senior barrister said however controversial a new life for George might be, he believed it could be just.

"She [George] will have served her debt to society by a lengthy period in custody," David Osborne said.

"If she's genuinely in fear of her life when she's released, it seems to me only fair she should be allowed the protection of changed identity."

The Ministry of Justice said a change of identity was "extremely rare" and granted only when "clear and credible evidence of a sustained threat to the offender's life on release" had been assessed.

"Even then, it would not be granted if it increased the risk of harm which the offender presented to others," a statement added.

Whoever she may become when she is finally released, the name of Vanessa George is expected to join the list of Britain's most notorious criminals.


Parents, whose identities have been disguised, do not believe paedophile Vanessa George should be given a new identity

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