Police say 'naming and shaming' paedophiles puts children at risk

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The Independent Online

A chief constable accused a national newspaper last night of playing with children's lives by launching a campaign to "name and shame" every paedophile in Britain.

A chief constable accused a national newspaper last night of playing with children's lives by launching a campaign to "name and shame" every paedophile in Britain.

Tony Butler, head of the Gloucestershire force and an expert on sex offenders, said the decision of the News of the World to publish pictures of 49 convicted paedophiles would drive offenders underground to attack children once more. He accused the tabloid of ignoring his pleas not to publish when he met twice with senior journalists last week and labelled the campaign an exercise in "irresponsible journalism".

His swingeing comments were at the heart of a furious row over the monitoring of convicted paedophiles, sparked by the newspaper's pledge to reveal the identity of 110,000 child sex offenders.

A heavyweight coalition, including the Home Office and offenders' groups, joined to criticise the campaign, saying it could backfire with tragic consequences.

Executives at the News of the World, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International, issued a staunch defence, arguing that they believed the campaign had the support of the vast majority of Britons.

Yesterday's issue of the top-selling Sunday newspaper carried pictures of nearly 50 men and women along with their names and whereabouts under the headline: "Does a monster live near you?"

News International bosses denied they were encouraging vigilantism, saying instead the "ground-breaking" campaign in memory of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne gave parents vital information to protect their children.

But Mr Butler, spokesman on the subject of sexual offenders for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "I am saddened to see that they have ignored my advice and published without any evidence that by doing so children's safety would be enhanced. Their actions will, I believe, have the opposite effect and put children's lives at risk by driving sexual offenders underground."

The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders agreed, condemning the campaign as "grossly irresponsible". The Association of Chief Officers of Probation said the campaign's focus on convicted offenders diverted attention away from the greater danger presented to children by paedophiles who were likely to be known by their victim.

The Home Office issued a thinly veiled warning that the media should not seek to take the law into its own hands. A spokesman said: "Judgements about naming are a matter for the police and it is best left to them - they are in full possession of the facts."

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