Paedophiles face playground ban

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Paedophiles and sex offenders, including people convicted abroad, could be banned from schools, playgrounds and other "risk areas", under proposals announced yesterday.

Offenders subject to the new exclusion orders will be prevented from going to specified areas for a minimum of five years. Anyone who breaks the order faces up to five years in jail and/or an unlimited fine. They can also be forced to undergo treatment.

The Home Office proposals are aimed at plugging a legal loophole and follow heightened fears that dangerous paedophiles are able to loiter in areas close to children.

The police will apply to civil courts for the Community Protection Orders and will have to show that the defendant was a sex offender and currently poses a serious risk to the community. The court would have to decide whether there was sufficient evidence "on the balance of probabilities". The defendants would, however, be able to challenge the order after five years.

Courts could not impose household curfews, under proposals by the Home Office consultation paper, which will seek views until the beginning of December. The order is expected to be part of the forthcoming Crime and Disorder Bill, and the measures would close a loophole in the recently introduced Sex Offenders Act which requires sex offenders released after 1 September only to register their names and addresses with the police.

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, said: "There are a number of sex offenders who did not have to register under the [Act] who remain a risk to the community."

But civil liberties groups and lawyers are concerned that the measures could lead to the harassment of innocent people.