This woman has named 600 child abusers in Australia. Now she plans a British list
Wednesday 19 February 1997
But probation officers and civil rights groups said it would be "unhelpful, ineffective and dangerous" if Deborah Coddington, who compiled The Australian Paedophile and Sex Offender Index, was allowed to publish such a book. They warned that such action was likely to put children in more danger by driving paedophiles underground, away from intensive supervision and giving them more opportunity to abuse.
Ms Coddington's 304-page Australian book contains an alphabetical compilation of people convicted of abusing children since 1991, including details of their offences and the likely release dates of those in prison.
She follows this with an index of offenders by town and city and another index by occupation. The biggest category here belongs to "clergy and church".
Her sources were newspapers, sentencing directories and conviction details from the Internet. "I became more and more horrified ... at the ways in which predators located children, abused them and repeated their crimes," she writes in her introduction. "Paedophiles are very cunning and without conscience - they use threats, bribery, secrets, lies, flattery and other tricks to ensure the child victim does not tell anyone."
Ms Coddington's book comes at a time when a Royal Commission inquiry into corruption in the New South Wales police force has begun an investigation of child abuse and the alleged protection of paedophiles by police. Already, seven witnesses have committed suicide, including a former Supreme Court judge and two policemen. The latest, a headmaster, hanged himself last weekend.
Ms Coddington, a journalist who has four children, published a similar book in New Zealand last year where she was praised by supporters of children's rights and abused by civil libertarians and lawyers. "I felt like the most hated woman in New Zealand," she said in Sydney yesterday. She dismissed the criticisms, saying that the people in her book had abused another person's right to pursue happiness and so had forfeited, for a time, their own rights.
But Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Britain's National Association of Probation Officers warned of the dangers of such a book being brought out in this country: "It is liable to drive paedophiles underground [and] could potentially incite mob mentality," he said, adding that it would also be ineffective because around 80 per cent of paedophiles are never convicted.
John Wadham, director of Liberty, the civil rights group, added: "Sex offenders could be attacked ... There could also be mistakes in the book which will lead to innocent people being targeted."
In Britain the Sexual Offenders Bill will set up a national register of sex offenders, enabling the police to keep track of convicted paedophiles and rapists. It is intended that only the police should have access to the information.
But pressure has been growing to bring in community notification orders similar to "Megan's Law", introduced in the United States last year, which requires public notification of the name and address of any convicted sex offender.
It is named after seven-year-old Megan Kanka, who was raped and murdered by a convicted paedophile who had moved into the street in New Jersey where she lived.
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