Tabloid ends its naming of sex offenders

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The Independent Online

The News of the World was forced into a humiliating climbdown last night as it ended its campaign of "naming and shaming" paedophiles.

The News of the World was forced into a humiliating climbdown last night as it ended its campaign of "naming and shaming" paedophiles.

The decision to abandon its pledge to identify up to 110,000 child sex offenders followed strong criticism from the police, politicians and children's charities. The publication of 82 names and photographs of convicted paedophiles has led to a spate of violent demonstrations and innocent people beingdriven from their homes.

The worst of the vigilante violence erupted on Thursday night in Portsmouth when a mob of 150 people wrecked the empty flat of a named offender, set fire to a car.

At least six people with the same names or appearance as offenders identified by the newspaper have been wrongly targeted by vigilantes.

The News of the World said it would continue its campaign for a public register of sex offenders. The paper said the "For Sarah" campaign, named after the murdered eight-year-old Sarah Payne, was intended to ensure "controlled access" to the information.

The decision to end naming and shaming is an embarrassing blow for the newspaper's new editor, Rebekah Wade, who has received death threats over the campaign. The paper's managing editor, Stuart Kettner, said: "There have been a number of threats to members of staff ... We have taken extensive security measures."

Putting a brave face on theU-turn, Mr Kettner said: "We are delighted to announce that the News of the World campaign for Sarah's Law, to protect children from paedophiles, has today received whole-hearted backing from the principal agencies involved in child protection. Accordingly ... we have decided to discontinue the naming procedure under which we identified, with photographs, convicted paedophiles in the newspaper."

Mr Kettner denied suggestions that the campaign had put children at risk and said those adults who have been wrongly attacked were mistakenly identified. "They were not identified in the newspaper. Nevertheless, of course we regret anything that happened, particularly since, from the beginning, we emphasised that law and order should prevail."

Sarah Payne's parents, Michael and Sara Payne, declared their support for the move in a statement. "We support the News of the World's decision to discontinue the naming procedure... while we fight together to bring this change in the law."

Police chiefs pointed out that they already give out names and address of some offenders to local authorities.Tony Butler, the spokesman on sexual offences for the Association of Chief Police Officers and the chief constable of Gloucestershire, said: "We have not made a song and dance about it, but we do put that information into the public domain."

Paul Cavadino, of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, said: "The naming and shaming campaign has contributed to an atmosphere in which lawlessness has flourished, innocent members of the public have been targeted by vigilantes and offenders have gone to ground. It has done considerable damage and subjected some unfortunate members of the public to terrifying ordeals."

Gill Mackenzie, of the Association of Chief Probation Officers, added: "We are delighted that the campaign is ceasing. We and the police are committed to moving forward in making practical developments for the protection of children."