Paedophile lists prompt mob attacks

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The Independent Online
Police efforts to compile a comprehensive register of paedophiles are being hampered by vigilante attacks on suspected child sex offenders.

Paedophiles who have been identified in local newspapers are being attacked by mobs and driven into hiding, out of contact with police and social services. The wave of vigilante action has led to a pensioner with senile dementia being beaten up and covered in blue paint by a gang who mistook him for a paedophile.

Francis Duffy, 67, was attacked close to the Manchester hostel where he lives by a mob shouting abuse and death threats. He suffered a broken wrist, cuts and bruises.

The gang had mistaken him for Brynley Dummett, who has six convictions for sex offences and bears a physical resemblance to Mr Duffy.

Mr Dummett was named and pictured in the Manchester Evening News three months earlier in a warning to residents of the Ancoats housing estate that a convicted paedophile was living in their midst.

He was driven out and moved to Chorlton-on- Medlock, also in Manchester, where local women visited schools and houses, distributing his picture. A mob went in search of the sex offender but attacked Mr Duffy. After the attack on Mr Duffy, Dummett fled and the police have no knowledge of his whereabouts.

The Manchester Evening News, which has published the names of two other local paedophiles, argues it is reflecting the public concern. Yesterday its editor, Michael Unger, a member of the Scott Trust, which owns the MEN and the Guardian, said he accepted no responsibility for the incident. Hugo Young, chairman of the trust and a Guardian columnist, said it was a matter for editors.

In Birmingham, the local Evening Mail newspaper is also running a campaign to identify local paedophiles and a Birmingham council official was suspended after notifying residents of a housing estate that a child sex offender was living among them. The sex offender moved out following demonstrations by local residents.

Other paedophiles have been driven from their homes by vigilantes in Llandudno, north Wales, Middlesbrough and Stirling, Scotland. The Stirling paedophile was moved from his bed-and- breakfast accommodation following a demonstration by 35 protesters after the education authority sent a warning notice about the man to nearby schools.

In Reading, a burglar who was made to wear a tagging device was attacked by a gang after a media story that a sex offender in the town was made to wear a similar tag.

It is feared that the vigilante attacks may escalate if a private publisher is allowed to go ahead with plans to issue a directory of British paedophiles. The Government is also considering proposals to allow publication of the names and addresses of child sex offenders. Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, has said a police-run national register of paedophiles will be drawn up.

Tony Butler, chief constable of Gloucestershire and the spokesman on child protection issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers, warned: "There are real dangers of public over-reaction and violence. Such action could drive offenders underground."

Harry Fletcher, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, agreed: "If they [paedophiles] are under supervision we can see the warning signs, but if they are driven out of town no one knows where they are or what they are up to."