Plan for police to name sex offenders to public

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The names and addresses of convicted paedophiles considered a danger to children could be released to selected families under proposals being examined by the Government.

The names and addresses of convicted paedophiles considered a danger to children could be released to selected families under proposals being examined by the Government.

Senior ministers want to place a "duty of care" on the police to assess whether a convicted child sex offender was likely to strike again. Details of paedophiles would only be released under limited circumstances and to a small circle of neighbours. Ministers also want to include paedophiles in forthcoming legislation that would allow criminals with dangerous personality disorders to be jailed for life.

The proposals, disclosed by Whitehall sources, are in response to the furore caused by the News of the World "naming and shaming" campaign and the following public outcry for more information about dangerous sex offenders living in the community.

Ministers have been horrified at the vigilante attacks and lynch-mob mentality unleashed by the Sunday newspaper's decision to identify child sex offenders. They have ruled out an open register of paedophiles - the so-called "Sarah's Law" - but have been struggling to come up with positive measures that will reassure the public.

The Government is determined to take a firm line on the recent disorder but is conscious that to make this credible it needs to be able to a clear policy on how to deal with predatory paedophiles.

At the moment the police and probation service only inform social service departments, youth leaders, and school heads, about the existence of people on the sex offenders register. Cases are treated individually and the policy differs between police forces. Individual members of the public are never warned.

Under the proposals the police, possibly working with the probation service, would be given responsibility for assessing whether a criminal was still a risk to children and likely to reoffend and for informing their neighbours. Ministers have made it clear that any decision to legislate would first be subject to full consultation with the police and probation services.

Police chiefs gave the idea of a statutory duty a hostile response last night, arguing privately that it was extremely difficult to assess which paedophiles may reoffend and would be almost impossible to prevent information being transmitted to a wider public. They also fear the police would be sued by the parents of children who were attacked by paedophiles about whose presence they had not been warned.

The proposed measures, which have yet to be discussed with chief constables, will incorporate Home Office plans to introduce indeterminate sentences in which the court would have the power to detain a person with a severe personality disorder who was deemed to present a serious risk to the public.

The order could be attached to any sentence imposed for a crime and could be given to a person who had not committed an offence but was believed to be a public risk. This had initially been intended to target psychopaths, but the Home Office want it to be used against dangerous paedophiles as well.

Ministers and the police are concerned that further public demonstrations and rioting similar to the violence witnessed on the Paulsgrove estate in Portsmouth during the past week will be sparked by today's memorial for Sarah Payne, the murdered eight-year-old.

Meanwhile the victim of a paedophile who avoided a jail term because he was named in the News of the World said yesterday she would campaign to ensure child sex offenders were kept off the streets. Kim Hawksworth, 22, said justice was not served after the former teacher Raymond Cullens receiving a suspended sentence for having assaulted her when she was a schoolgirl.