Paedophiles in fight for right to privacy

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Two convicted child-sex offenders are taking legal action against a police force in an attempt to obtain secrecy rights for paedophiles.

The couple, who cannot be named for legal reasons, want to prevent the police from passing on details to third parties, such as headteachers and youth workers. The action was taken after a man and women were forced to move home when their landlord was allegedly told about their criminal record.

The man was convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl and a series of assaults on children in 1989. The woman was convicted of aiding and abetting rape and other sex offences. They were both given 11-year prison sentences. They moved to north Wales last summer but were forced to move after they were identified as sex offenders.

In what is expected to be an important test case, the High Court will examine the conflict between the public's right to know and the right of paedophiles to live anonymously after they have served their jail sentence. The couple are seeking a judicial review and the case is expected to be heard at the High Court next month.

It follows a decision by North Wales police to issue a warning about the presence of the convicted sex offenders.The force uses a policy document called "Paedophiles and Suspect Person - Release to Third Parties" to decide whether to issue a warning. An example of a case in which information is likely to be released would be to the head- teacher of a school where a convicted paedophile lived nearby.

The outcome of the High Court case could have important ramifications for other police forces and could restrict their ability to issue warnings about known paedophiles.

There is growing concern about paedophiles being allowed to live and work close to children and there have been widespread calls for tougher action to curb their freedom. The new Sex Offenders Act, which has yet to come into force, will require anyone convicted or cautioned for child- sex offences and rape to notify police of their names and addresses and if they move home. The maximum penalty for failure to do so is six months' jail and/or a pounds 5,000 fine.