Newspaper campaign led to series of attacks on innocent people

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The Independent Online

The short-lived News of the World "name and shame" campaign led to a series of vigilante incidents, including attacks on innocent people, and children being dragged on marches to shout hate-filled slogans.

The campaign, which followed the paedophile murder of Sarah Payne, was chosen by the NoW editor Rebekah Wade in August 2000 to make her mark in Fleet Street, shortly after she was appointed to the post.

Her newspaper would, she said, name and shame known paedophiles so parents living near them would be aware of their proximity. As soon as the first "name and shame" issue was on the streets, an innocent man with a name similar to one of those listed had his windows broken and abuse hurled at him. A judge allowed a convicted paedophile to walk free partly because he had "suffered" in the campaign.

In Portsmouth, parents had their children carrying banners saying, "Kill Them" and vigilantes gathered outside the homes of suspected paedophiles, shouted abuse and threw stones.

The NoW campaign was opposed by The Independent, and much of the liberal press, police and probation services. The campaign was initially praised by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, and the Home Secretary, David Blunkett. However, the Government then quickly distanced itself.

The NoW list was indiscriminate. Men who attacked children were there with downloaders of internet porn, and women who may have had sex with underage boys. The comi-tragical implications of such a campaign became reality when a mob attacked a paediatrician after her job title was distorted on the rumour mill.

Police, probation officers and social services agencies opposed Ms Wade's campaign, even though the News of the World claimed otherwise. George Barrow, a spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "We were appalled, and remain appalled, by the naming and shaming."

Ms Wade claimed she had been backed by Sarah Payne's parents but after the incident in Portsmouth, Sara Payne said: "We never wanted this. We don't want any violence, and we can't bear to see children like this, brought up to hate."