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Last Updated: Monday, 19 June 2006, 22:12 GMT 23:12 UK
Media 'dictates paedophile plans'
Terence Grange
Mr Grange said media pressure brought about policy change regularly
A top police officer has said the government is being "blackmailed" into abandoning any coherent strategy for the management of sex offenders.

Chief Constable Terry Grange told BBC News he was extremely concerned the Home Office had "surrendered" power over policy to the News of the World.

It wants a law to let parents know about paedophiles living in their area.

The Home Office said protection of the public was of paramount importance to the government.

Paedophiles are to be moved out of probation hostels next to schools.

This decision, by Home Secretary John Reid, comes after the News of the World found 60 had been housed, with government approval, at sites near schools.

Dyfed-Powys Police Chief Constable Terry Grange, the child protection spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, told BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight the Home Office was "slowly but surely acceding to its requests, and it is wrong to do so".

I have instructed that no child sex offenders reside in accommodation directly adjacent to schools
John Reid

The paper is calling for a UK version of Megan's Law - known in this country as Sarah's Law, after Sarah Payne who was murdered six years ago

As part of the US system, a number of states list offenders' details on the internet, allowing parents to enter their zip code (post code) or a name, to check if anyone on the register has moved in nearby.

But Mr Grange told BBC News that this year alone in the US five people had been murdered "by people who have accessed the sex offenders register, gone to their houses and killed them".

"The history of providing information to the public in this country and America needs to be looked at very carefully," he added.

John Reid
John Reid will look at the American way of dealing with offenders

Home Office Minister Gerry Sutcliffe is going to the US to see how the system works and if a UK version could be introduced.

In a statement, Mr Reid said his "starting point" was "that information should no longer remain the exclusive preserve of officialdom".

"I'm sending my minister to America to discover the best way of ensuring the controlled release of information to the public," he said.

A Home Office spokesman told BBC News Mr Sutcliffe had been sent to the US on a "fact-finding mission" because "we want to look at all the options".

"Some areas of the US have been successful and some have not," he added.

The spokesman told BBC News Mr Reid had only been home secretary for a short period of time, but had already made a number of statements about the protection of the public being paramount.

In addition, the spokesman said his decision to move paedophiles out of probation hostels next to schools had been made in the light of those statements.

We work very closely with the police on these matters
Home Office

No decision had yet been taken on the possible introduction of a UK version of the Megan's Law system, he added.

"We work very closely with the police on these matters," the spokesman told BBC News.

But Mr Grange accused the Home Office of responding to pressure from the News of the World, allowing the newspaper to dictate a shift in government policy.

"This government has accepted the principle that they are prepared to be blackmailed," he told BBC News.

Mr Grange accused Home Office officials of "attending meetings at the behest of a newspaper to discuss what the newspaper wants and then surrendering to their wishes - altering their whole approach over night".

Sarah Payne, murdered by a known paedophile.
Campaigners want a UK version of Megan's Law, called Sarah's Law

He spoke of an "abandonment of any real strategic design in the Home Office for the management of sex offenders in favour of trying to find out what one particular tabloid newspaper wants and then complying with their wishes".

"If the officials working at the Public Protection Unit at the Home Office were able to speak, they would tell everyone they are in a state of complete despair as to where the strategic plans, the original intent - a coherent strategy for managing sex offenders - has disappeared to.

"It is impossible to work consistently, coherently when every month or every six weeks there is a policy change or reaction brought about by pressure from the media.

"Most of my colleagues - certainly chief probation officers across the country - find it impossible to do their jobs.

"The only people with any real strategic intent and understanding of where they want to go and the will to be ruthless in getting there is the News of the World."

A News of the World spokesman said: "A newspaper's role is to represent readers and that is precisely what the News of the World is doing with Sarah's Law and will continue to do so."




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear the interview with Chief Constable Terry Grange



SEE ALSO
No 10 admits Megan's Law problems
19 Jun 06 |  UK Politics
The story of Megan's Law
18 Jun 06 |  UK
No 10 denies sentencing 'panic'
15 Jun 06 |  UK Politics

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