A newspaper campaign to "name and shame" fugitive paedophiles was praised yesterday by the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, and the Home Secretary, David Blunkett.
But the pitfalls surrounding such a campaign were also highlighted when Scotland Yard said the News of the World had wrongly given details of an offender who was already under supervision.
The Metropolitan Police flatly denied a claim by the News of the World that the force had sanctioned the use of a photograph of the man, who is living in a London bail hostel. By making public his details, published along with those of six other "highly dangerous paedophiles", the newspaper was acting as "judge and jury".
The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders accused the NoW of driving abusers underground.
Last year the newspaper sparked vigilante attacks by publishing the names of alleged paedophiles.
Mr Prescott appeared on BBC1's Breakfast With Frost yesterday to praise as "public-spirited" the NoW's publication of pictures of four child abusers wanted for breach of the Sex Offenders Act. Mr Blunkett, announcing in the newspaper plans for tougher sentencing and community involvement in managing released offenders, said it had "campaigned tirelessly" to improve the safety of children.
The four men – Raymond Perkins, 62; David Baron, 62; Zia Asad Alowi, 33, and Tuan Quang Ho, 25 – have all signed the sex offenders' register but have since disappeared, which contravenes the terms of the Sex Offenders Act. Three others were also named, including the 45-year-old man. Justifying its decision to publish a photograph of the man, who has convictions for indecent assault and taking indecent pictures, the paper said the Yard had "unusually sanctioned using his picture to let people know of his existence".
But Scotland Yard has bluntly contradicted the claim, saying the man had not breached the terms of the Sex Offenders Act, was being monitored at the bail hostel and was not wanted on any outstanding matters.
A police spokesman said: "As far as we are concerned, this man has been dealt with. The paper has acted as judge and jury and this is where we start to get into dangerous territory. We did not sanction the use of this man's photograph."Reuse content