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Monday, February 22, 1999 Published at 15:50 GMT

UK Politics

Child abusers' register defended

The move follows a series of scandals

An MP who wants to prevent people who are only suspected of child abuse from working with youngsters has rejected claims that her proposals would infringe civil liberties.

Debra Shipley's Private Member's Bill, which would set up a register of the names of convicted and suspected paedophiles, gets its first reading in the Commons on Friday.

Employers would have a statutory duty to consult the register when recruiting staff to work with children. They would also be obliged to inform the register of the names of any suspected abusers.

People wanting to work with mentally ill or vulnerable adults might also have be checked against the register.

The Bill follows a series of scandals in which paedophiles who have left a care job in one region because of a suspicion of abuse have then gone on to find a similar job elsewhere so they could continue attacking children.

It looks almost certain to become law after winning strong cross-bench support and the backing of the child protection charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.


However, it has been criticised by the civil rights group Liberty which warned the measure could lead to individuals being blacklisted because of one unsubstantiated allegation.

It said the Bill could become a "charter for unscrupulous employers". The Observer newspaper said the proposals were "draconian".

[ image: Debra Shipley: Protection for children and carers]
Debra Shipley: Protection for children and carers
But Ms Shipley, Labour MP for Stourbidge, told the BBC Midlands at Westminster programme that her Bill would close dangerous loopholes in the current non-statutory guidelines on dealing with abusers.

"This is a measure to vet potential child care workers. If they have abused children before, my Bill prevents them from working with children ever again," she said.

"I don't think it's draconian. I think it's sensible."

Right of appeal

She said her Bill would actually give care workers new rights to ensure they were not the victims of unjustified allegations.

At present people who were the victims of a whispering campaign had no forum to challenge the rumours about them, she said.

Under her proposals people would have to be told they were being put on the register, she said. They would also have the right of appeal to have their name removed.

Fellow Midlands MP, Tory Caroline Spelman, also defended the Bill, saying it was "eminently sensible and tragically necessary".

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