'News of the World' defends paedophile campaign

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The Independent Online

The campaign by the News of the World to "name and shame" paedophiles looked likely to continue after the editor met her critics yesterday.

The campaign by the News of the World to "name and shame" paedophiles looked likely to continue after the editor met her critics yesterday.

Rebekah Wade met representatives of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Association of Chief Officers of Probation, all of whom said the campaign would increase the risk to children.

In a statement after the meeting at Wapping, east London, the bodies appeared to adopt a more conciliatory approach, saying they had explored "the common ground" between themselves and the paper.

They said: "A number of points have been identified on which we and the News of the World have agreed to reflect between now and the weekend. We and the News of the World will remain in touch to see if we can find a way forward in the best interests of children."

Stuart Kuttner, News of the World managing editor, refused to be drawn on whether it would print pictures and names of more paedophiles. Sources said it was unlikely the paper would back down and suggested the most likely outcome was a compromise where the "naming and shaming" issue could be separated from parents' rights to know about paedophiles in their area.

Also at the meeting were Michael and Sara Payne, parents of the eight-year-old murder victim Sarah Payne, whose death prompted the campaign.

Mrs Payne, who backs the campaign, said members of the public wished to know who and where the paedophiles were "and until someone comes forward with something else, we will continue to do this. We will... get together at the end of the week to see if people round the table want to come on board for the 'For Sarah' campaign. 'For Sarah' stands for a public register that we all have access to".

The meeting took place as a Home Office study showed a new register used by police to keep track of sex offenders had been working well. The review, Where Are They Now?, found there had been a high level of compliance with the Sex Offenders Register, reaching 97 per cent this year.

Under the 1997 Sex Offenders Act anyone jailed for 30 months or more has to register for the rest of their life.

The Government has criticised the News of the World campaign, saying police and probation officers are best placed to check offenders. It drew added criticism after a police force said it feared the campaign may jeopardise attempts to extradite a man whose picture was published last weekend.

Stephen Glen Featherstone, 33, known as Glen, has been on the run since being convicted at Teesside Crown Court in November of six offences of indecently assaulting girls. He has been traced and extradition proceedings are under way. But while officers wait for a warrant, they fear Featherstone, who has not been arrested overseas, will be alerted to the campaign and flee elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Stephen Andrew Featherstone, 37, and Stephen Featherstone, 42, both of Billingham, Cleveland, have emphasised to local media that they are no relation whatsoever to the convicted paedophile, after a man was attacked by a mob that mistook him for one of the pictured men.

One of the paedophiles whose picture was published last Sunday died six years ago, despite being listed as "whereabouts unknown".