Police chief condemns paedophile vigilantes

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A police chief yesterday condemned vigilantes who used "lynch mob" justice against suspected sex offenders, as calls came for a change in the law to deal with paedophiles.

Dr Ian Oliver, Chief Constable of Grampian, called a mob of more than 100, mainly women and teenagers "totally irresponsible" after they forced two men to flee a housing estate in Aberdeen. He said they had acted on "speculation" which was not only rumour but was "deliberately false".

The debate over whether convicted sex offenders should be able to live in the community and, if so, whether people should be informed, has been renewed this week with two further cases.

In Liverpool, where a convicted paedophile is due to be released this week, a senior policeman called for the law to be changed to enable the community to be told. Detective Chief Inspector Paul Evans said police could do no more than keep under full-time surveillance an "incredibly dangerous man", set to be released in eight days', after being detained under the Mental Health Act.

Meanwhile, in North Wales, a couple of convicted paedophiles are taking the local police to court after their names were released to the owner of a campsite when they moved there. The couple had been hounded out of three previous homes once their convictions became public.

But civil rights campaigners and probation officers said insisting that all paedophiles get treatment would be far more effective than broadcasting their names around local communities.

The new Sex Offenders Act will required anyone convicted or cautioned for child sex offences to keep police informed of their addresses, and the Government has said a register of convicted paedophiles will soon come into force.

It is now considering how best to implement the Act. Proposals under consideration include indeterminate sentences for sex offenders and decisions over who will be informed.

"One has to be realistic and know that some responsible parents ... have a very genuine concern as to the vulnerability of young children," said Dr Oliver. "We don't want to go back to the days of putting brands on people's foreheads."

John Wadham, director of Liberty, said that in general "both the police and the Government recognise that it is a mistake to publish people's names as it drives paedophiles underground, therefore they do not register and are more likely to be dangerous and commit more crimes."