A clever compromise over convicted paedophiles

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The Independent Online

Few crimes are more despicable than the sexual abuse of children, and public concern about the early release and resettlement of convicted paedophiles is fully justified. Crude vigilantism and lynch-mob justice, however, do no more than meet crime with crime, while giving rein to some of the more vicious traits of human nature.

Few crimes are more despicable than the sexual abuse of children, and public concern about the early release and resettlement of convicted paedophiles is fully justified. Crude vigilantism and lynch-mob justice, however, do no more than meet crime with crime, while giving rein to some of the more vicious traits of human nature.

So while they will doubtless appear timid to many, the Home Secretary's proposals, disclosed in today's Independent, are to be welcomed. They strike a judicious balance between the rights of ex-offenders who have been freed after serving their sentences and calls from communities and parents for tougher controls.

Members of the public will for the first time be given a direct role in monitoring the thousands of paedophiles and other serious criminals released from prison each year. They will take their place alongside police, probation officers and others on new public protection panels, which are to be created in each of 42 police districts in England and Wales. They will be expected to convey public concerns about the risks presented by resettled criminals and to make recommendations as to how the public can be better protected.

For those campaigning for a "Sarah's law", in memory of Sarah Payne who was murdered by a known paedophile, Mr Blunkett's proposals will go nowhere near far enough. They want the public to have direct access to the sex offenders register, so that they can find out the addresses of ex-offenders resettled in their midst.

The dangers of providing such public access, however, were all too clear from the riotous attacks that followed the News of the World's "naming and shaming" campaign last year. Yes, communities should have a say in how they are protected and effective channels for expressing their concerns. But law enforcement must always be a matter for the authorities; anything else risks rule by the mob.

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