[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 15 April, 2004, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Public asked to track sex abusers
Sara Payne
Blunkett proposed the idea following the murder of Sarah Payne
Members of the public are being recruited to help monitor paedophiles and other dangerous criminals after they have served their sentence.

The Home Office wants ordinary people to advise professional public protection panels tracking the worst sexual and violent offenders.

David Blunkett first mooted the idea in 2000 after the murder of Sarah Payne.

It was tried in eight areas last year, and now 84 people are being recruited to join panels across England.

Unpaid advisers

Eight-year-old Sarah was murdered in July 2000 by paedophile Roy Whiting, who was jailed for life.

The worst violent and sex offenders are currently tracked after their release from prison by specialist "multi-agency public protection panels".

The idea of adding members of the public to the panels is partly to reassure local communities and head off vigilantism against paedophiles.

This gives a freshness of view, a disinterested opinion which can provide a reality check
Terry Grange
Chief Constable Dyfed Powys Police

People with a track record of community involvement are particularly sought after.

The advisers will be trained, but will not be expected to become experts or have contact with offenders.

Unpaid and expected to attend four meetings a year, they will not make decisions about what happens to offenders but will be able to question what is done in their area and why.

Community interest

They will be dealing with offenders who pose a high risk of serious harm or whose management is proving difficult or particularly sensitive.

One such adviser, Jacqui Francis, said it was a good idea to have procedures in place to let organisations share information and manage offenders to protect the public.

They will have a part to play in the review of cases where things have gone particularly well or if there are instances where things don't go so well
National Probation Service director general Steve Murphy

"It's better to have a system in place where you're monitoring and people don't go underground," she said.

"The system we have enables us to make sure those individuals know they are being watched."

Home Office minister Paul Goggins said: "Managing high-risk sexual and violent offenders in the community will always need professional and sensitive handling.

"Multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) have already proved to be a tremendous success and we believe this is another important step in ensuring the best possible management of these types of offenders."

Anti-paedophile protest in Plymouth
The move is partly to reassure communities

Steve Murphy, director general of the National Probation Service, told BBC News the advisers would "give the advice they think the public would want to be heard" to the police and probation service.

"They will have a part to play in the review of cases where things have gone particularly well or if there are instances where things don't go so well," he added.

Chief Constable Terry Grange, who represents the Association of Chief Police Officers, welcomed the scheme.

"Lay advisers will play an important role in the review and monitoring of the MAPPA," he said.

"They represent a community interest in public protection and bring a different perspective from that of the professional interests. This gives a freshness of view, a disinterested opinion which can provide a reality check.

"I believe that lay advisers offer a real opportunity to enhance public confidence in public protection work."

Re-offending

Adverts for lay advisers will start to appear in the local press from May in the North West and North East, from July in Yorkshire, Humberside, Wales, the West and East Midlands, and from November in the South West, South East, London and Eastern England.

Earlier this year, a report published in the Journal of Legal and Criminal Psychology showed that sex offenders tended to remain a danger for years.

A 21-year study showed a quarter of the 419 men released from prison in 1979 received another sexual conviction.

Sarah Payne was killed by a convicted sex offender, and Sarah's mother said if she had known he lived in the area, she would not have let her play outside.

She had been campaigning for a so-called Sarah's Law, under which the whereabouts of offenders are publicised.

She said she would still campaign for the public to have access to the sex offenders' register so they would know if any were living in their communities.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Neil Bennet
"David Blunkett does not favour America's so-called Megan's Law"



SEE ALSO:
'Sarah's Law' calls made
18 Jun 03  |  Cornwall


RELATED BBCi LINKS:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific