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Could 'Sarah's Law' scheme cause vigilante attacks?

15:17 UK time, Sunday, 1 August 2010

Police have played down fears that allowing parents to check if someone with access to their children is a sex offender may cause vigilante attacks. Would parents keep the information they have obtained to themselves?

The scheme known as "Sarah's Law" was proposed after the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne in 2000. It was then piloted in four areas in England from September 2008.

The Home Office pilot scheme is now being extended to eight more forces. Chief Constable Paul West of the Association of Chief Police Officers said it was "realistic" to think people would keep information to themselves.

Would children be safer because of "Sarah's Law"? How widespread should the information be about sex offenders in an area? Could the scheme backfire? Is there a risk of vigilante action and sex offenders going underground?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.


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  • Comment number 1.

    The current system requires "reasonable cause" to check on someone so you can't just take in a list of suspects. I think it's particularly good that women with children can check on a potential new partner as most abuse is sadly by someone close to the victim.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    "Would children be safer because of "Sarah's Law"?"

    Not really, since most abuse is committed by family members.

    "How widespread should the information be about sex offenders in an area?"

    There should be none available - like for all other serious crimes.

    "Could the scheme backfire?"

    Of course - it's simply more hysterical nonsense. And giving the mother of Sarah Payne any say or involvement in what happens in law is ridiculous too, when you think about it - she's far too personally involved. She should be treated with compassion and then sent home with any and all emotional support she needs. In fact, I would resist any law which has the name 'X's Law', where 'X' is a well known victim of child abuse or murder. It's simply bound to be more hysterical nonsense.

    Out of interest, too, BBC, is the lack of a single scenario involving any non-male in the role of 'chief suspect', in the following page you put together:

    Amazing that, reading this, you would think only men sexually assualt children. Is this a case of you not doing your research, or just the BBC being the left-wing sounding board of the feminists, in the usual 'all men are scum and aggressors' way? Whichever, it's really quite depressing.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think if people go round abusing children they get whats coming in the end and have more to worry about and feel more empowered because of these laws...

    God bless Sarah and her mother her lovely face haunts me and I did not know her..

    People simply should have the right to know but it is wrong to take the law into your own hands.

    Perhaps hanging would be a good solution especially in cases where there is really strong damming evidence and little doubt especially in high profile murder cases involving the targetting of children. Times have changes and DNA evidence along with some other evidence could be all thats needed to make the decision to hang with justification as there would be little doubt and we would have the right level of deterrent.

  • Comment number 5.

    There is no need for this law. If an offender is deemed to no longer be a threat, and they have done their time, then they should have the same rights as anyone else who has served their time. If however an offender is deemed to still be a threat to children, then they shouldn't be out of prison in the first place.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    Well they've been piloted in Southampton and surprisingly haven't ignited a spate of vigilante attacks. I also have it on good authority that a couple of people in my local area have been cleared of wrong doing after having been labelled as possible paedophiles, so in that sense Sarah's law has done some good.

  • Comment number 8.

    If sentences that reflect the crime are handed out, vigilante attacks probably won't happen.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    There is some risk of vigilante attacks. That is because the public has no confidence that sex offenders are adequately punished through the 'justice' system or that they are properly monitored. Many of them should in any case be locked up so that they - and more importantly their potential victims - remain safe.

  • Comment number 11.

    Ignorant people don't need a law to reinforce there ignorance.
    I am sure many contributors will recall the beating dealt out by a tribe of vigilantes to a pediatrician!

    Provided appropriate checks are placed on the system and provided confidentiality is maintained this legislation may prove useful.

  • Comment number 12.

    As the father of 4 daughters i welcome the change in the law to allow this information, having said that i dont think it goes far enough.
    I would much prefer it if we simply had a database available to the genral public that says with a photo and what they were convicted for and where they are living, would that have a negative effect, well a few peado's may get a beating but i wouldnt lose any sleep over that. Not that i advocate violence of any kind. however offenders knowing that they are constantly being watched by Everyone because we know what they have done.
    In the long term it may provide enough of a deterant.

  • Comment number 13.

    What's to stop the wrong kind of people, trouble makers and blackmailers using the information?

  • Comment number 14.

    The risk of them going underground well in many cases this would be a breach of there conditions of release so it should be straight back inside. is that a problem, well anyone that interfers with a child in my humble opinion should never be released under any circumstances anyway.

  • Comment number 15.

    The problem that I see is that this will lead to demands for all sorts of disclosures about neighbours by people worried about their safety.

    For instance,a case could be made for telling people about their neighbours' children's appearances in Youth Courts.

  • Comment number 16.

    8. At 5:56pm on 01 Aug 2010, ruffled_feathers wrote:
    "If sentences that reflect the crime are handed out, vigilante attacks probably won't happen."

    Well said ruffled_feathers. On the estate where I live there is a problem guy with convictions & we, his neighbours, are having to gather the evidence of him breaking his release conditions for over 10 months. There are a great many people here who would like to take the law in to their own hands, but don't do so because there is still a little hope that the courts will do their job properly & put the human rights of the innocent children before the accused. If the upcoming trial fails to deal with him adequately I can see some protective parents getting convictions.

  • Comment number 17.

    Irving wrote:
    Where are these trial areas taking place?

    If you were to test this in an area where the local population have self worth, a high education and knew attacking someone would be damage to their career. Or have you actually test these in areas of big council estates, where the red papers is worth more than the word of the bible and believe all their problems can be resolved with a punch?

    The problem is, one time a mistake will be made and someone will be killed from mob action. The cause will likely be driven by the red papers who are having a slow news day. I think if we were to have "Sarah's Law" then every time a link is made between a red paper and a mob attacking someone then they are face with a £50m fine. That would make them think twice!
    Thats quite derogatory and snobbish of you! I doubt your exactly royalty.

  • Comment number 18.

    I understand that this is a very emotive subject but from personal experience i also know how hard it is for the police to take allegations of abuse seriously. My daughter lives with my ex she is 14 and is aparently dating a 20yr old, my daughter i have learnt through relatives that have a closer relationship with my ex than i do, is sexually active. I have reported my concerns that she met this 20yr whilst truanting from school and she insists on continuing the relationship. i have no doubt that it is of a sexual nature. I have reported my concerns to the police and basically unless i can say person x did such and such on this date at this time. THE DO NOT WANT TO KNOW. In my opinion she has been groomed plain and simple she is underage etc... my ex just ignores the situation for a quiet life.

  • Comment number 19.

    Such information should be routinely available countrywide. Children's safety is paramount and there's no way I'd keep quiet if I knew of such a deranged person roaming loose in any locality - that would be tantamount to aiding and abetting their perverse crime. Such criminals should be locked up in solitary confinement and the key thrown away.

  • Comment number 20.

    When some sections of the community don't know the difference between a
    paedophile and a Paediatrician there is always a risk. Also, the Salem effect I guess can surface in a community anytime, anywhere. Notwithstanding there needs to be some adequate measure of protection for parents. It requires the Intelligence to be accurate and properly managed by the Authorities

  • Comment number 21.

    I feel that the rule of law is being subverted like how a lot of "democracies" become dictatorships. Ignorance for the rule of law is the first sign that we are heading down the slippery path to totalitarianism.

  • Comment number 22.

    the word 'access' to a child is a little disturbing when parents are not aware that their children can be close enough to someone linked to a sex offence.The meaning of 'access' ought to be expressed in ernest and with safety the main priority for all children.If the public are meant to keep quiet,then hell hath no fury like a mother,whose child has been the subject of close contact with an undesirable and there are many whose behaviour has alerted parents to be charged with the wrath that is expressed out of fury rather than compassion.To be silent could mean the loss of some one dear.

  • Comment number 23.

    No offender should be free to live in the community unless and until it is determined that he is no longer a risk to that community: and once released, where is the probation service? Are they not under supervision?

    I know someone who was convicted of a minor sexual offence against a child (scared rather than harmed her), and he was closely supervised by the probation service for several years. This included him being forbidden to accept a job which, while not of course actually working with children, would have required him to visit people in their homes whilst children could be present (I think it was selling insurance or financial services). And this was someone who admitted his offence, knew it was wrong and was determined not to reoffend (and hasn't, some 15 years on!). Surely that is how it ought to be done?

  • Comment number 24.

    I would much prefer it if we simply had a database available to the genral public that says with a photo and what they were convicted for and where they are living, would that have a negative effect, well a few peado's may get a beating but i wouldnt lose any sleep over that. Not that i advocate violence of any kind.
    So if you happen to move into a property and look a bit like the previous occupant and get a kicking that's all right then is it?
    Of course there has never been a case of mistaken identity so this couldn't possibly happen!

  • Comment number 25.

    If a sex offender is living in our midst then we should have the right to know. If they know we know it will lessen the risk and should the offender reoffend then the community must be allowed to take whatever action it sees fit.


  • Comment number 26.

    19. At 6:26pm on 01 Aug 2010, Susan wrote:

    Such information should be routinely available countrywide. Children's safety is paramount and there's no way I'd keep quiet if I knew of such a deranged person roaming loose in any locality - that would be tantamount to aiding and abetting their perverse crime. Such criminals should be locked up in solitary confinement and the key thrown away.

    = = = = = = = = =

    And sadly you are exactly the kind of unthinking person who could incite a vigilante response that is unwanted.

    I agree that a parent should be able to enquire as to whether a certain person is a cause for concern - But not to demand a list of sex offenders simply to "spread the word" as you want to. Mobs have an IQ inversly proportional to the number in it.

    If someone has done their time - they should have the opportunity to live life normally - They already have restictions placed upon them.

  • Comment number 27.

    Of course it could carry a risk of vigilante attacks. But this has to be balanced against the risk to children if their parents are not being warned, and to my mind reducing the risk to the child is more important than reducing the risk to known offenders. There is of course the risk of mistaken identity or wrong records, but if the police hold the information they can do a lot to minimise such risks.
    I don't think for a moment that ALL parents will keep the information to themselves as if it's a State secret, but I'm sure most will be sensible enough to to treat it as a respected confidence
    I don't undertand the 'going underground' point. If they're convicted offenders then if they are going to be allowed back into the community they must expect to be placed under some form of required regular reporting to the police or any other suitable authority. If they abscond the punishment must be severe.

  • Comment number 28.

    For every KNOWN paedophile, how many UNKNOWN's are there? Its an unworkable scheme which will lead to witch hunts, attacks on the homes and general mob "justice". And who knows how many mistakes may be made, how many innocents with similar names end up being falsely accused. As a nation, we seem to want to destroy all DNA databases, we dont like CCTV , we dont like ID cards and we want our civil liberties protected. Yet as soon as you mention sex offenders, all that goes out of the window. We want to act as judge and jury. Surely that is hypocrisy and double standards?? If youve served your time, havent you paid your debt to society? What next? We identify who has a criminal record in our street? Then who breaks traffic laws? What about people who are fraudsters or who are chronically in debt and therefore more likely to steal from us? We can check them out before inviting them round for a dinner party? Its ridiculous. Im not suggesting we feel sorry for paedophiles, but we DO live in a civilised democracy. It is up to the authorities to monitor the movements and activities of known sex offenders and NOT something that should be entrusted to the lynch mob. You shouldnt need to know who the nasty people are in YOUR street, because the authorities should be carrying that burden for you and carrying out the required monitoring on your behalf.

  • Comment number 29.

    No idea who Sarah is or was. Did we elect her? But maybe her law should be extended so we could check on ALL our neighbours ... for fraud, theft, vandalism, hooliganism, confidence tricking, or whatever. Such things are more common and of more pressing concern for most of us than mere paedophiles (who, statistically, usually turn out to be family members or close acquaintances anyway).

  • Comment number 30.

    Perhaps the way forward is to actually remove people, who are considered a threat to children, from the public domain. Surely it is a medical problem, a psychiatric issue. If someone is deemed to be a threat, then section them and hold them in psychiatric units. Offer them treatment, such as chemical castration and if they can be treated and returned to society without their urges, then all well and good. If they refuse treatment, or cant be treated, then treat them as dangerously mentally ill and keep them in secure hospitals. That would be a a far more sensible and practical way to deal with the problem. Otherwise, how can you legitimately persecute someone who has a conviction and has served their sentence, paid their penalty, served their time (or even someone who hasnt been convicted but is merely suspected) ? The law has to be applied fairly to ALL. We cant simply pick and choose who we want to have legal rights and who we dont.

  • Comment number 31.

    Of course it will lead to attacks! In the States, anyone who attacks a sex offender is treated harshly. People know this information can be kept confidential if it leads to attacks. If that happened here, the tabloids would be on the side of the vigilantes, as they were when they were responsible for totally innocent men being assaulted because the tabloids printed their photos...
    I do wonder if it will deter others, because if people knew that their info would be shared it might put them off. I doubt it, but it could.

  • Comment number 32.

    Tricky one. On the one hand, you can understand people wanting this protection. On the other hand, people will for sure end up taking the law into their own hands as a result.

    Overall, there seems to be an increasing tendency for criminal law issues to be influenced by victims' families. Actually, while that sounds good, it is probably a big mistake.

  • Comment number 33.

    It is reasonable to know if known sex offenders are living in your area and are working unsupervised with children,however they are unlikely to be working with children unless the employer of the ex offender is a complete idiot. The CRB disclose all such information even if you havent been convicted but merely interviewed on an allegation so there is little excuse.Any employer who then goes on to employ such ex offenders is really putting the fox into the chicken house and if the person goes on to offend again against children it would be pretty bad for that employer. This aside what worries me is all ex offenders have to live somewhere even if they are highly unlikely to work with children and hounding these people through hysteria and mob culture egged on by the gutter press will end up in the "murder" of innocent people.I would point out that the person who killed Sarah Payne DIDNT work with children,was a known ex sex offender but the law couldn't stop the poor girls murder.This new law could never stop that happening again heaven forbid. If all ex sex offenders are never allowed to settle anywhere they will network with each other and go underground,change their names and just vanish. In many ways this law is striving to do just that and that cannot be right by making it the publics responsibilty.Repeat sexual preditors are sick people and should never be allowed out.All such offenders should be kept locked away until they die,there is no evidence to suggest that a sex offender is ever cured unless they are permanently drugged.
    Regretfully like the CRB before it this law will be extended and altered to take into account other offences to suit government policy and eventually there will be a huge swathe of people who can never be employed and have vanished off the government data bases.In the UK there are 8 million people who have criminal records and most are gainfully employed again once their punishment is complete,this law will increase the unemployed by a significant amount.

  • Comment number 34.

    I would be very interested to know how many of those who support Sarah's Law would also support a law that allows us to know who the convicted or suspected terrorists are and where they live? I mean, they threaten our whole way of life dont they? How about criminals in general? If its ok to know who the paedos are in our street, cant we also know who the thieves are?. If I know who has convictions in my street, I wont be inviting them to my summer BBQ....or at least if I do, I can hide the valuables.....

  • Comment number 35.

    There are some valid points here, however perhaps Sarah Law or whatever it may eventually be known as, could replace the current CRB checking system, my point is that anyone wanting to be involved with working or caring etc for children or adults with special needs etc should of course be vetted, but that vetting should only relate and be relevant disclosures for any offence relating to child/adult abuse etc...with a standard CRB or Enhanced CRB these disclosures rake up any conviction that you have even if spent and decades old and totally irrelevant to child/adult care, after all employers cannot refuse to employ an individual with a spent conviction but if you want to go on a school trip with your own child you have to tell the school that you have a conviction for a petty offence thats 30 years old... so perhaps this new law will target rightly so those individuals that we need to be aware and help those individuals that have made a very small mistake in there life leave the past where it is

  • Comment number 36.

    I say we should give them all no luxuries in prison. Disgrace that they even have a TV. They also shouldn't be allowed to complain

  • Comment number 37.

    There is an ideal that says it is better to let ten guilty people go free than to wrongly convict an innocent person. The problem with Sarahs law is that it entrusts sensitive information to people who have no vetting and no obligation to use that information with discretion. The flaw lies with human nature. Those who seek such information have a huge responsibility to treat such information with a level of care. Sadly, we will see people misusing such information, not to protect their kids, but to whip up mob justice. I fear that this cannot be regulated and we will see assaults, murders and arsons, potentially affecting innocent lives as well as those deemed "guilty". Is that really British Justice?

  • Comment number 38.

    A fair proportion of sex offenders require treatment not hounding and the odd casual kicking from a mob of upright citizens,a fair number of whom will have form themselves for violent crimes.
    Often sex offenders are family members their victims are related to them or resident with them, and assaults and public disclosure of them compound the misery of their blameless families

    I know this won't be popular with the hang em all Mail reading fraternity but it happens to be true.

    Incidentally I was an operational police officer in inner London for many years, have young children of my own and have some knowledge of the subject I am commenting on.

    Regarding the legislation,it may prove of some limited benefit the trial period indicates 60 children have been "saved" I am not entirely sure how this salvation has actually been measure as presumably we are not talking about sexual assault by a stranger which fortunately is as rare now as it was 50 years ago but rather some more ambiguous saving by knowing that there might be a risk.

  • Comment number 39.

    I heard a father on the radio today, relating his experience in one of the pilot areas. He asked the police about somebody. It seems he was given conflicting formal and informal information, which didn't help and left him confused.

    It was clear that the cause of confusion, which may be repeated often as the system expands, was the desire of a police officer to warn a concerned parent about "something", without being able to go into details, weeks before a proper formal report was available.

    I think the American website idea is better, where parents can have questions answered at once instead of a confusing drip-drip of innuendo and information provided by understandably sympathetic police officers.

  • Comment number 40.

    If a police officer pushed over a paedophile and the person died as a result of his injuries, would you be applauding or calling for justice?

  • Comment number 41.

    "Chief Constable Paul West of the Association of Chief Police Officers said it was "realistic" to think people would keep information to themselves."

    I fully understand the need for child protection. At the same time, the police officer is being, knowingly or otherwise, extremely naive. People will pass information to their friends. Records can be wrong. Quite apart from people with genuine records, someone innocent is going to get killed. Setting laws due to pressure by victims is most unwise.

  • Comment number 42.

    What is this law about, other than revanchism and hysteria?

  • Comment number 43.

    Will we have the right to ask about networks of paedophiles as they are not a lone and there is huge amount of money connected will they have this money taken from them like drug barons have done to them and homes and their pictures in the paper. These people hunt other peoples children for sex so why should they not be hunted? Would we allow serial killers in our homes take them so that they can learn not to kill us, the fact is there is nothing really done about these people we have a lobby here who wants to bring down the age of consent why is this not discussed? And the rich child molesters were is their list and their names. The truth is the UK government does not want to really deal with this why because it would mean dealing with to many people men mostly but also women as as they run networks its a huge problem and its world wide. What should be asked in my book is of what us are they to the big society, none.

  • Comment number 44.

    sex offenders going underground, well they don't go around now with big signs on saying hello I'm a sex offender...
    Most try to keep a low profile, until temptation becomes too great then they strike...

  • Comment number 45.

    First, to the question at hand: "Could Sarah's Law scheme cause vigilante attacks?"

    I would argue absolutely and I will put my own head on the block to explain why. If I were to discover that my neighbour was a convicted sex offender then I would personally have a hard time keeping this information from others in the neighbourhood, damn the consequences.

    However, we run headlong into a simple problem, where does it stop? Sarah's Law checks for potential "mates?" One can almost imagine the scenario, "Well we have been together for several months and I love you dearly but a Sarah's Law check has thrown up a history of shoplifting, so you must be a danger to children..."

    This sets a dangerous precedent, we are allowing victims and tabloids to dictate law when neither are in a position to do so.

  • Comment number 46.

    Only if its applied in an area with a collective IQ of 6, where they cannot tell the difference between paedophile & paediatric nurse/specialist!

    Besides as we now have a country where the rights of kiddie molesters / killers are more important than those of their victims, I am not surprised these individuals are not given piles of cash to compensate them for loss of freedom......

  • Comment number 47.

    We cannot stop Sarah's Law because of the fear of vigilante attacks, otherwise we are prioritising the safety of paedophiles above children, and that cannot be right.
    Vigilantism is against the law, and the law must deal with vigilantes to full effect.

  • Comment number 48.

    # 25 - While I wholeheartedly agree with most of your sentiment, let me pose a hypothetical scenario.

    A single parent marries a man knowingly aware of his perverse penchant, minor or otherwise. Nonetheless her irresponsible naivety not only places the children in the lion's den, equally endangering their young friends.

    I believe in such a scenario, children should immediately be removed to a responsible haven, both parents locked up, along with wide publication of their careless attitudes/behaviour. Relatives are capable of hiding such details for years on end, despite truth's knack of surfacing ... sadly, too late sometimes. So it's not so 'simple'.

  • Comment number 49.

    Children are at greatest risk of abuse from their parents, siblings, close relations or family friends. If records of offences/offenders are to be kept, they should be retained for use by law enforcement bodies exclusively. It's bad enough that concerted media hysteria has brought us to this place, but to give information of this nature to people outside an accountable body is tempting reckless barbarity.

  • Comment number 50.

    If The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) think it's realistic that people will keep this information to themselves then they've never stood at a school gate. Or been to a supermarket, a coffee morning, a pub or church of that matter. Wherever people gather they will gossip.
    It is unrealistic so say there will be no vigilante reprisals. ACPO should be more responsible and weigh the costs against the benefits rather than deny the costs.

  • Comment number 51.

    I grew up in the council estates and so I have idea how they are!

    It doesn't matter if it sound like a snob position. It is true.

    Where do you live? Somewhere in the countryside or central london, trying to lord it down on us commoners?

  • Comment number 52.

    Whilst the idea has great merits, it's too lop-sided.
    It's totally misleading to talk about 'sex offenders'. The system according to the BBC report allows the police to disclose unfounded suspicion and rumours - "or has been previously suspected of abuse".
    i.e. just as with the CRB 'enhanced' disclosure, whatever allegations the police have on their files could be 'disclosed'. The police never want to admit that they were wrong, and will not embrace court acquittals, but retain the slur on their files.
    It's a 'no smoke without fire' scenario, in their mind.
    Hence the resounding unanimous acquittal by a jury of a teacher maliciously accused of offences by pupils will not be taken as proof of innocence by the police. The accusations will be 'disclosed'!
    This is grossly prejudicial and contrary to British justice. Innocent people should not be allowed to be tarnished by the retention of slurs tested and dismissed by courts!
    The current CRB 'enhanced' disclosure already goes too far in this respect.
    The massive percentage of teachers (e.g.) falsely accused of sexual assaults by their pupils and exonerated still have their careers ruined, because every future prospective employer will be given 'the dirt' on them by the CRB/police!
    This is grossly wrong.
    If the scheme is allowed to continue, those who are NOT convicted criminals should be massively compensated by the state in the event that they suffer any prejudicial action as the result of such disclosures, which make the presumption that a person who has been accused is still guilty even if found innocent by the courts!

  • Comment number 53.

    Whats to stop me telling my neighbours that Joe Bloggs at number ten (who has annoyed me by constantly parking in my space and playing his music loud and letting his dog bark all hours of the night) is a paedophile , out of malice? I can say "I checked with the Sarah's Law database and they say he's a paedo..." And off they all go to burn his house down. If you think such things wouldnt happen, you are living on Mars!

  • Comment number 54.

    Having grown up in homes that my parents ran for young children (aged 2 - 8) who were the victims of sexual abuse, I'd like to make this point:

    In almost every case of the offenders being released from prison MORE THAN HALF re-offended. These are just the ones that were proven and went to court.

    Whilst I don't condone vigilante attacks, as a parent, I can't imagine how I would react if anyone abused my child. I also know that the the children I lived with, although victims of repeated/systematic and very depraved sexual abuse, will NEVER have a normal life. Why should someone who took a child's innocence away be allowed to lead a "normal" life?

    Sarah's Law is a good thing, but even better would be to keep PROVEN paedophiles locked up forever. Why let them out when the chances of them re-offending is so high?

    My cousin was murdered and my family found the strength to forgive. I have yet to find a parent who will forgive a paedophile...strange how that works.

  • Comment number 55.

    All sex offenders need to subject to containment, especially once their sentences are up. With the public at liberty to interfere, that becomes so much harder.

  • Comment number 56.

    i believe that sarah's law should be used everywhere in the world. it is against the law for a convicted sex offender to be around children. do we want to protect our children or do we care more for the so called rights and saftey of a sex predator who is at the moment stalking it's next victim?

  • Comment number 57.

    Whilst I agree with Sarah's Law whole heartedly, and indeed feel it is taking a step toward a safer communities, not just for children but for those who work with children.
    However I have great concern at the call for publish photos of these offenders. This could and would lead to mistaken identity in bars or pups where violence could be the end result. And, "sorry, I thought you looked liked him" would not be held as a defence in court or a suitable answer to the "poor look alike"

  • Comment number 58.

    "About time this law came here" Only the police at this time know where these sex {perverts} offenders' live, its hard enough to be a parent in the U.K. with drugs and alcohol on every big estate ,withour the added fear of your neighbour or someone close by, who may be out to abuse your son or daughter. {Parents need the right know}

  • Comment number 59.

    I thought, with the end of the last Labour government, that the time of rushed, ill thought out useless laws that only pandered to the tabloid press had passed. It appears I was wrong. Let us hope this is a leftover and not a sign of things to come.

    ...and I have to agree with entreri100404 in post No.3. Stop the dangerous sexism BBC.

  • Comment number 60.

    My husband, and our whole family, went through 18 months of pure hell when he was wrongly accused and then convicted of making indecent images of children. Only after spending 2 months in prison did we find the evidence that the police had fabricated the whole thing and put the images onto his computer themselves. He was released, conviction quashed, and we have been awarded compensation; but his career as a vet has been irreperably destroyed and we have lost our home due to, guess what, vigilante attacks.

    I always knew he was innocent, not least because I was with him at many of the times he was alleged to have committed the crimes, but it was my word against a police computer expert's so that meant nothing.

    Our experience is no doubt similar to countless other victims of police abuse and miscarriages of justice. Imagine you had a wrongful conviction for a child sex offence and now your details are available to a whole swathe of people. It would be an absolute nightmare. Knowing from personal experience how much of a sham the justice system is, there are many people whose identities will be revealed but who are innocent of what they have been punished for in the first place.

    This law is evil and should be repealed completely. Everyone is covered by the Human Rights Act, and that includes those with convictions.

    Think of (a) those wrongly convicted; and (b) those who just happen to bear a passing resemblance to an offender. Many innocent people's lives will be ruined by this law. We are considering emigrating to the continent where they actually respect people's right to a private and family life.

  • Comment number 61.

    I don't know the rights and wrongs of the so called Sarah's Law but I find it very disturbing that an association like the Notts Lawn Tennis Association or Ramblers Association can implement this kind of thing. I think these laws should be controlled by Parliament not a boys club like ACPO.

  • Comment number 62.

    It depends on just how much info the police hand over.

    Given it only gave a rough area of the place they live..street name/post code and not the exact address and house/flat number, it would minimise the risk of wannabe 'justice seekers'.

    Paul Wests naivety in regard word of mouth not being an issue is in my opinion amusing, and quite worrying..given his position.

    He surely has to know better than anyone word of mouth is pretty much the reason most petty/street related crime is solved?

  • Comment number 63.

    In 52. At 8:04pm on 01 Aug 2010, Coriolanus wrote:

    Whilst the idea has great merits, it's too lop-sided.
    It's totally misleading to talk about 'sex offenders'. The system according to the BBC report allows the police to disclose unfounded suspicion and rumours - "or has been previously suspected of abuse".

    The other thing is the equating of "sex offender" with "child abuser". Such an attitude could lead to a lot of attention on people who were never any danger to children. Whilst "ex cons" who continue to be a danger...

    i.e. just as with the CRB 'enhanced' disclosure, whatever allegations the police have on their files could be 'disclosed'. The police never want to admit that they were wrong, and will not embrace court acquittals, but retain the slur on their files.
    It's a 'no smoke without fire' scenario, in their mind.
    Hence the resounding unanimous acquittal by a jury of a teacher maliciously accused of offences by pupils will not be taken as proof of innocence by the police. The accusations will be 'disclosed'!

    However would any record even be kept of someone making an unsubstantiated, even malicious, accusation?

  • Comment number 64.

    why stop with sex offenders lets put up pictures and addresses of drug dealers/burglars/muggers/shop-lifters/benefit fraudsters/adulterers/prostitutes/pimps/car thieves,etc
    yes it was a despicable act that brought about Sarah's law but i don't think the public can be trusted with this information,
    there was a case some years ago about a women who sent an image of herself to her boyfriend but miss keyed the phone number and it went to a little old lady who reported it and she was put on the sex offenders list,
    i don't think it serves the public interest that this information is passed around ,
    if an incident occurred and members of the public had access to ex offenders names and addresses then imo they would become rabble and run round the houses trying to get to them,
    imo Joe public cannot be trusted with that information as when they become incensed they act first and think later

  • Comment number 65.

    Every parent or grandparent should have the choice to get this information to protect their children.
    Why should sex offenders be protected? I do not think Sarahs Law scheme would cause vigilanty attacks.

  • Comment number 66.

    I have three children aged between nine and fifteen, and whilst my wife and I do our best to educate them with regards to the possible dangers of sex offenders, by far the biggest emphasis we make in relation to them keeping safe is how to cross roads safely. It seems today's parents are far more paranoid about the possibility of a predatory paedophile lurking than equipping their children with some road sense.

    In relation to making information known, certain quarters of the general public have shown they do not have a good track record when it comes to acting on information with regards to "known" child sex offenders, who remembers the chap who lived somewhere on the South coast and was hounded from his home by a group of "concerned parents", his crime?, he was unfortunate enough to have the same name as a convicted paedophile. And let's not forget the paediatrician who very nearly fell foul of a group illiterate thugs.

    By all means let's protect our children but lets not become a bunch of paranoid, reactionary thugs.

  • Comment number 67.

    Here's an idea, if everyone is so concerned for the welfare of pedophiles, then let's keep their identities secret and filed along with their testicles!

  • Comment number 68.

    Is this the same police who tell us not to worry about the DNA database? If the police chiefs were subject to election like the politicians they might be more careful about such authoritarian statements.
    Will they take responsibility when an innocent person is accused of being a sex pervert as a consequence of these proposals? Will they pay sufficient compensation to allow people to rebuild their lives and gain a new identity?

  • Comment number 69.

    I completely agree with Coriolanus and Mark Evans.

    My husband (as I have already mentioned was the victim of police corruption causing a miscarriage of justice) has been acquitted, pardonned etc. and awarded substantial compensation for the horror we went through, but whenever he applies for a job in his field (he *was* a vet), this area, like human medicine, requires enhanced CRB checks across the field. Any arrest, even wrongful, made by either a corrupt scumbag or overzealous new recruit, will show up on this CRB forever. As will any charge, court appearance etc., including those where the jury took 5 minutes to unanimously clear the victim - yes, defendants who are wrongly accused are victims too and suffer just as much as victims of crime, in different ways.

    I think ANY arrest which results in no action taken, ANY charge resulting in a not guilty verdict, or ANY quashed conviction, should not appear in any CRB or other police check, under any circumstances whatsoever. The police should be forced to destroy all records in these instances, including taking the DNA/fingerprints out of the PNC. Getting back to the subject, many of these innocent people with convictions for crimes they didn't commit, or worse, crimes that didn't even take place, are in serious mortal danger from baying mobs of vigilante rednecks who are FAR more danger to our safety than any child abuser.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Mark Evens, the phrase "child sex offender" covers many things, far beyond plain physical abuse. Many listed sex offenders have never so much as touched or gone anywhere near a child, and are no more risk of doing so than you or me. E.g. someone downloading indecent images of children rightly deserves to be punished, but they are 99% likely not to be a danger to anyone. Saying someone who views such pictures is a danger is ridiculous. If you think that then you are implying any man who views normal porn is a danger to women, or any person who has viewed a video of 9/11 is a terrorist and a threat to global security, or anyone who has viewed CCTV of an armed robbery on Crimewatch must be a dangerous criminal. Think before you generalise.

  • Comment number 70.

    Susan, post 65 (and indeed anyone else): if you or someone close to you were wrongly labelled as a sex offender, would you still demand that their identities should be revealed?

  • Comment number 71.

    If sex offenders were kept in prison where they belong we wouldn't need Sarah's Law.

    Anyone who has harmed a child should be kept in prison until they die IMO. I don't want them out on licence, I don't want them on registers, I don't want them anywhere where they would be able to harm another child; I just want them locked up.

    Oh, and if they ARE attacked by vigilantes, I really don't give a monkeys. I put the rights of a child far above the rights of any paedophile.

  • Comment number 72.

    Someone answer me this. How many children are at risk from paedophiles, compared to those at risk from not having the MMR jab? How many children are hurt, seriously injured or killed on Britain's roads, each year, compared to those killed or assaulted by paedophiles? If you drive your car too fast, while chatting away on your mobile phone, do you present greater or lesser risk to the safety of children than paedophiles?

  • Comment number 73.

    I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, as a parent and grandparent, I find anything to do with paedophiles to be utterly beyond comprehension. I just want them destroyed, so that they can't touch another child ever again.
    On the other hand, I am wary of any law which allows an element of revenge to enter the process. Disgruntled ex-spouses, spurned lovers, jealous co-workers could all add fuel to the fire and condemn an innocent person (usually, but not always of course, a man). By the time they will have been beaten and publicly humiliated, the "no smoke without fire" rule would apply.

  • Comment number 74.

    This is typical tories pandering to what they think is popular amongst the public. Sarah's law has not been thought through and is highly dangerous.

    Perhaps for the supporters of this law would consider the consequences for themselves if they got on the wrong side of it.

    All it takes is for someone, a neighbour perhaps or someone with a grudge against you, to inform their friends and neighbours that they've checked you out and you are indeed a paedophile according to the police. Afterall, why should they disbelieve you? And they'll play safe.

    Let the fun begin. You are attacked and hounded out of you home.

    Very dangerous law. Let the paedophiles be dealt with by the professionals. It's in everyone's interests.

  • Comment number 75.

    Once again Mrs Vee has shown complete disregarded for the thousands of people and their families who have had their lives ruined and have found themselves as target for vigliante scum for crimes they didn't commit.

    Once again, I challenge Mrs Vee to say if she would still think this if her or a loved one was wrongly convicted of such a crime.

    Too many people think "this would never happen to me" or "even if someone is wrongly convicted, they are always close to the crime or connected with the person who did it so they deserve it" (anyone who says the latter deserve to be shot in my opinion).

    Most people on the Sex Offenders' Register do not need to be on it. This is because most people on it are not a risk to the public. Many of them have sexually abused people in their own families, and are rightly punished for it, but they are no more danger to a random stranger than you or I. The same applies to anyone whose identity is revealed under this new horrenous and dangerous law.

  • Comment number 76.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 77.

    I suspect the biggest negative consequence from this will not be Vigilantly action but the ripping apart of happy harmonious family groups. Of course we all laud any genuine protection of children, (though I suspect the figures being quoted will turn out to have been manipulated.)

    What will get forgotten though is those hundreds, soon to be thousands of innocent people who were checked out and proved to be perfectly genuine. How many of those will inevitably find out about such checks in due course and how poisonous will that information prove to be to what was perhaps once a loving relationship?

    I am probably past that stage in my life but I fear that no matter how much I thought I loved someone were I to find out I had been checked out in that way I would quietly pack my bags and leave.

    One would hope of course that this would only get used in situations where there is very real grounds for a partner to feel suspicious. In reality I suspect women coming into a new relationship who already have a child will get pressurised into making sure 'for the sake of their children' with tragic results.

    Of course those pushing this will keep track of the 'successes' that support their argument while quietly ignoring the shattered lives they have leave behind in their obsessive 21st twist on McCarthyism.

  • Comment number 78.

    More powers to the snoopers charter...more scarily though that it is the the public that are to be given the power to snoop and not the authorities... its a bit Like nazi germany where neighbour was encourage to spy on neighbour, the with hunt that resulted led to many innocents being pursued and punished by anyone that had a grievance against them.

    These powers should be only available to the police.

  • Comment number 79.

    I love this country!

    Well over NINETY PERCENT of child abuse is carried out by family members. Grandads. Uncles. Fathers. Mothers too. We're hearing more and more stories of women, often mothers themselves, at the centre of child abuse rings.

    Sarah's Law, like most official responses, spectacularly misses the point, and is based on this widely held obsession with the paedo predator on the street out to steal children, which even in the context of child abuse is quite unlikely (see above).

    Will a Sarah's Law promote vigilantism in the UK? Are you serious? Anyone remember the PAEDIATRICIAN whose house was trashed by the righteous illiterate? Or the poor chap hounded to DEATH after his photo was MISTAKENLY included in the GREAT News of The World name and shame campaign of yesteryear? Good grief!!

    I wonder what the excuses will be when the first poor soul to be mistakenly beaten to death off the back of this new initiative will be. Can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs?

  • Comment number 80.

    Normally the legal system is dead set against the public taking the law into their own hands, yet this seems to be a vigilante's charter.
    Given the awful case of the paediatrician's surgery being targetted by a mindless (obviously semi-literate at least) mob, how long before an innocent is lynched?
    A poorly focussed, low resolution photograph and a mix up in names is all it takes, that and a bit of hysteria...........

    They won't introduce harsher sentences, they won't re-introduce corporal or capital punishment but seem willing to trigger mob violence - it's madness.

  • Comment number 81.

    Anyone who thinks that this information will not be passed on by concerned parents is living in cloud cuckoo land. This law will surely result in the deaths of possibly innocent people once the self righteous
    vigilantes get hold of details of possible offenders.
    People who have been convicted of child abuse should be made to report to their local police station several times a day as part of their conditions of release from prison. If the police can do it with suspected football hooligans they can do it with paedophiles. However what to do with the most likely offenders like fathers, uncles etc? This law is an attempt to make a complex problem appear simple to solve, when any thinking person knows that is not.

  • Comment number 82.

    the reds are no longer under the beds
    they have been replaced by the peds
    i agree with no one special
    McCarthy has returned
    let the witch hunts begin
    and i pity anyone accused of a crime they did not commit

  • Comment number 83.

    There's many aspects that this could go potientially wrong. First, I would like to point out that reading the five scenarios that you, the BBC, have come up with I find a bit disconcerting in the fact that you specifically target only men. Are you clearly suggesting that it is only men that's capable of sexually abusing children? Not only do you perpetuate the problem, you're simply making it worse by highlighting situations that focus solely on men, which will give the public the impression that all paedophiles are me and that itself is dangerous.

    Also, I like to address the person who wrote this:

    "Oh, and if they ARE attacked by vigilantes, I really don't give a monkeys. I put the rights of a child far above the rights of any paedophile."

    Okay, so you're saying that people should attack potiential paedophiles, even if they may have been wrongly convicted or accused? How would you feel about that if an innocent person was attacked based on the wrong information?

    Also I think that people, whether they're accused of raping a child or another adult should not be named, until there's a conviction. And no, that's not giving more rights to a sex offender as I'm sure you're familiar with the phrase "innocent until proven guilty". That's simply giving more rights to everyone who should have the right to a fair trial.

    But even then, there's the issue of what if they were falsely accused? This is a difficult issue to balance, given the nature of it.

  • Comment number 84.

    23. At 6:40pm on 01 Aug 2010, Megan wrote:
    No offender should be free to live in the community unless and until it is determined that he

    -polite snip-

    I didn't read any further since you have already assumed that 100% of sex offenders are male. Badly researched or sexist?

  • Comment number 85.

    I consider my politics to be right of centre, Ive probably had my" hang em and flog em" moments. But the more I think this through, the more I am against this capitulation to the Lynch Mob. The notion that, in our oh so Liberal society, we are quite happy to create exceptions to our beliefs in fairness and the rule of law is astounding. If a person has served their sentence, they are free. They have paid their debt to society. Thats how it is for everyone. If they have been arrested, but not charged or convicted, or even if they have been charged, but not convicted, then they are INNOCENT. Just because you have been accused doesnt make you guilty. So why should that information, which can seriously affect your life, be available to the lay person so that they can be judge and jury? We complain that DNA is kept on a database even if no charges are brought or a there is no conviction and we reject the argument that if we are innocent, we havent anything to fear from having DNA kept. Yet we think it is ok to store unconvicted information (essentially gossip) on the CRB database which can be checked and which can prevent someone from getting a job or worse, become a victim of vigilante "justice". We think its acceptable to divulge sensitive information about personal information which is held on a COMPUTER DATABASE, to random unregulated members of the public. Crazy!!!

  • Comment number 86.

    Whilst S/Law will no doubt protect children, there is nothing that can be done to irradicate these sick individuals, what about the recent case of the female nursery worker/owner...this individual passed all the rquired police checks and complied with local authority policies and was allowed to operate a day nursery... only later and by pure chance to be found supplying images of children taken at her nursery to a network of child porn users
    Also lets not forget the cambridgeshire police detective that was investigating the soham murders.... dismissed after it was found that he himself had indecent images of children..
    Thing is who can you trust and a case of who has been caught..yes we have human rights but like many arabic nations, capital punishment would be a big deterent... caught stealing have your hand caught child molesting have your hands removed then no need to worry about the offender re-offending or even using the internet

  • Comment number 87.

    Obviously this is a very emotive subject.

    My comment is simply that there are provisions already in place and if employers can request a CRB check maybe this information may be made available in other limited circumstances

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    Why do the British people have to continually ask 'Who is important the child, or any paedophile' We know immediately who is important and that must be thee only priority. Not the individual who attacks children who cannot fight back against their horrendous behaviour and lust. Britain like all areas of the Western World have lost-the-way when it comes to protecting children and all peoples of all ages, and that is a damnable disgrace in this year of 2010AD.

  • Comment number 90.

    "most abuse is committed by family members."

    Maybe ... but paedophiles approach children to whom they have access: that access is probably easier in the family, because they don't have the hurdle of getting the child's trust first. But if they didn't have that access, they'd only seek victims elsewhere, in streets, playgrounds, schools etc. Just because the statistics say that "most abuse is committed by family members", doesn't mean that families are the greatest risk to children.

    It has been ascertained that there is nothing inherent in children that attracts paedophiles: it's nothing actually physical about them that they desire/admire, in the same way that a man may admire large-breasted women, for example, or women being attracted to taller men. What is actually happening is that these individuals, for a variety of reasons while growing up, are incapable of relating to, and forming sexual/emotional/intimate relationships with, adults. I feel that if this problem was addressed in childhood, perhaps by the teaching of how to form meaningful relationships included as part of sex education in schools, these people wouldn't exist. They only turn to children because they can't get adults: if we enable them to have relationships with adults, our kids are safe. Instead of sticking their heads on spikes at the city gates, we should offer them the help they need to prevent them committing crimes in the first place.

  • Comment number 91.

    I have witnessed a 14 year old girl causing mischief at a bus depo, as she was thrown out she kicked the window and screamed "pedo". I'm a photographer but the last few years I have mostly resisted working at family events because I really don't want the hassel having heard many innocent fotogs being questioned by the police who misinterpret the law and paranoid parents accusing them of allsort. Far from empowering parents Sarah's Law is a charade no more than just a modern version of the Salem witch hunt allowing thugs and corrupt politicians a green light to suppress the population.

  • Comment number 92.

    In response to Mark Evans' question "However would any record even be kept of someone making an unsubstantiated, even malicious, accusation?" the answer is a very emphatic 'YES'!
    It shouldn't be, the Information Commissioner might often protest against it, but it is. The police are still allowed to retain and purvey as 'soft information' the most lurid detail of allegations made even against those resoundingly cleared by the courts or whose cases have been dismissed by judges without coming to trial.

    Linked with all this is the further issue of the excessive availability of CRB enhanced disclosures. They surely ought not to be available on request by just any employer. But there appears to be no attempt to limit them in such a way as to protect the truly vulnerable from potential threat. I've even seen one required of a road sweeper!!!
    Surely disproportionate and distasteful!
    If the falsely accused can be marked for life by these processes, what hope can a time-served (possibly even truly penitent and reformed! - it could happen!!!) ex-convict ever have of successfully reintegrating into society?
    No wonder there are so many 're-offenders'!

  • Comment number 93.

    I have a friend who met a girl who lied about her age. He's no Peado, but he was asked to voluntary sign onto the Sex Offenders register for 2 years, told it was to make sure he posed no threat. He did this as he wanted to prove he posed no threat. He was promised that it was just for this and if he passed he would never here of it again. Although he's not on it now, its not clear if he is likely to be named. He is actually still with the girl as they met again and he forgave her. She was 15 nearly 16, but she told him she was 16 nearly 17. Had his life tipped upside down. He poses no risk to anyone, now 7 years on, he talking about taking his own life to protect her. He is so worried about viliganties, attacking him and his family, he says he is better off dead. So how can anyone say that this Sarah's law works, when it isn't clear. I will now be spending weeks making sure my friend don't do anything stupid. Seriously the wrong people are going to become Victims. If someone is that much of a Danger to children, they shouldn't be on the streets/ Now wrongly accused etc will suffer. Weldone.

  • Comment number 94.

    I feel that the s/law will lead to vigilante attacks... lets see how many reported attacks come in where the victim has been a pedophile in the next couple of weeks. Personally I feel pedophiles are sick and twisted people but i do feel that we are putting them in a very dangerous position. The government have already said that 60 children have been saved by this law so far, that can only be circumstantial though surely.

  • Comment number 95.

    There are 10 000 sex offenders in the U.K, one paedophile be square mile. That’s not a very comforting thought, especially when you are a parent, who loves your children more than life itself and would do anything to keep them safe. I worked for a child protection charity in South Africa (highest rate of child abuse in the world), and this comes a close second. What kind of a society are we if we do not do everything to protect vulnerable children, who are our future? This is taking one more step in the right direction to protect them which I support. I am surprised by those who only consider the rights of these paedophiles, who abuse and murder vulnerable kids. The rights of these offenders, need to be BALANCED against the rights of children, to live in a safe and happy environment and the rights of the public at large. Children have a right to their innocence and a healthy and happy childhood. I don’t think that having them on offender’s registers is enough. Yes, they are prevented them from working with children, but these people will prey on the trusting, children and their parents and this just closes another loophole outside the child care setting. Abuse is often inflicted by family members, friends and neighbours. In most cases the abuser is known to the child, and now we will know a bit more about our neighbour in this scenario, won’t we? These people may have been abused themselves and need help. By NOT supporting this law we would be helping them to reoffend, not helping them to deal with their own personal issues, which have basically turned them into monsters. We have to realise that most of them could not stop the abuse even if they wanted to in many cases.....I am all for SARAH’S LAW (RIP). It should really be like the neighbourhood registers you have access to in the U.S. I think it is a reasonable limitation, to their rights for privacy and its necessary to protect the public at large. The information in this country could be managed to prevent vigilantism, by only providing it to people have a direct interest in requiring the information for starters, until we are ready to go as broad as U.S legislation. I would not go and torch the house of a paedophile, as I am not a monster.... I just would not live next to him. If this drives him underground, who cares, after the hanous crimes, and reoffending, without responding to counselling, .....maybe they belong there..........if they can’t respect natural long as our kids are safe, happy and alive.

  • Comment number 96.

    Looks like the government has difficulty using anti terror laws to suppress the populace they now use Sarah's Law to override any opposition from human right laws.

  • Comment number 97.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 98.

    we shouldnt need to know where they are, kill or rape a child? then life should mean life, thats the price to pay.

  • Comment number 99.

    Will it lead to vigilante attacks? Almost certainly.

    First, you will have the people who believe that sex offenders should not be released from prison at all and that they deserve all they get when they get out.

    Then you will have those people who simply look for any excuse for a fight, much like the so-called football fans who actually go to matches just to cause trouble.

    Then, of course, there also the friends and family members of children who have been abused who may be looking for some kind of retribution, or to dish out punishment that they don't feel has been effected in prison.

    It begs the question - is there a basis for other offenders to receive the same kind of treatment? How many householders would be interested to know if there is a convicted burglar living in their vicinity, so that they could take appropriate measures to safeguard their homes? Before I'm attacked for equating burglary to child abuse, I simply mean that I imagine there are far more burglars out there than sex offenders and that both offences are harmful to individuals and to society as a whole, and presumably there is an equal chance of recidivism.

    I have chosen not to express my personal opinion on the new law as it is irrelevant.

  • Comment number 100.

    My greatest concern if a totally Innocent person has got the same name as a convicted Paedophile. The only way to confirm a persons identity is to take their fingerprints and DNA. By simply taking Name and date and Place of Birth is not good enough. I can see problems for many innocent people.


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