Politics: MPs back work ban on abuse suspects

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The Independent Online
MPs BACKED a Bill yesterday to ban convicted and even suspected paedophiles for life from working with children - despite serious misgivings over civil liberties.

The Protection of Children private member's Bill, sponsored by Debra Shipley, the Labour MP for Stourbridge, would ban all childcare organisations from employing anyone on a national register drawn up by the Government, and require employers to submit the names of those who have harmed children or put them at risk.

This will enable the Government's proposed Criminal Records Bureau to operate a "one-stop shop" so concerned childcare organisations can make speedy checks on volunteers as well as employees.

Several Labour backbenchers fear innocent people could end up on the list and they plan to table amendments once the Bill reaches its committee stage.

Ms Shipley said the legislation would give individuals a right of appeal against inclusion. "As things now stand people do not know if they are kept on the lists kept by certain government departments," she said. "They have no right to appeal and cannot amend the entry."

John Hutton, a Health minister, said the Bill would bring protection to the innocent, and indicated that ministers wanted criminal sanctions for organisations that fail to comply with the vetting system.

Ms Shipley told MPs: "No organisation is free from potential abusers and it is only right and proper that parents can expect organisations, in whom they have put their trust, to vet their workers, paid or unpaid."

James Paice, the Tory MP for Cambridgeshire South East, cautioned against "malicious reporting" of people to the list and urged rigorous checks because suspects would be considered "guilty until proven innocent".

Jackie Ballard, the Liberal Democrat MP for Taunton, said the ability to check the lists needed to be extended to every statutory employer.

"If that does not happen, I can see that those people on the list may see the best hope of going undetected is to work for a private individual, as a nanny, because that individual would not have access to the list."

The Bill was given an unopposed second reading and stands a good chance of becoming law, having the support of the Department for Education and Employment, the Home Office and the Department of Health.

A pensioner charged with sex offences against children and adults dating back to 1972years was remanded in custody by a magistrates' court at Reading, Berkshire, yesterday.

Sidney Cooke, 71, is charged with 14 assaults, including four rapes, involving eight people - men, women and children - aged between 11 and 23.

Cooke, gaunt and with a grey, straggly beard, gave only his name and date of birth.

His lawyer, Graeme Hydari, made no application for bail.Cook is next due to appear in court on March 26.

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