The Press in York has won a major breakthrough in its campaign for a law change that would see child kidnappers placed on the Sex Offenders' Register and banned from working with children.
The Home Office has said the paper's Change It! campaign, launched in May, is likely to be successful, and according to The Press, a new stranger abduction bill could be on the statute books as early as the autumn.
The Press celebrated the breakthrough with a front-page story including a quote from Sara Payne — the mother of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne, who teamed up with the paper to lobby the Home Office — saying: "None of this could have happened without the incredible support of The Press." She described the paper as "the media at its best".
Change It! was launched after the case of Terry Delaney, who tried to kidnap 13-year-old Natalie Hick. Natalie forfeited her anonymity to tell The Press how she had expected Delaney to go on the register.
During the trial, The Press discovered a loophole in the law that allowed child abductors to avoid being put on the Sex Offenders Register, and also allowed them to work with children.
Judge Paul Hoffman, the honorary Recorder of York, condemned the anomaly after being unable to make any order prohibiting Delaney's actions in future when sentencing him to four years in jail.
Currently neither the Sexual Offences Act 2003 nor the Criminal Offences Act have child abduction offences involving strangers listed under them.
Existing legislation is solely devised for parents who have their child taken away by another parent.
York MP Hugh Bayley, enlisted by The Press as part of its campaign, has received confirmation from Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office, Vernon Coaker, that the campaign will receive "sympathetic consideration" in a review of legislation surrounding child abduction.
Editor Kevin Booth said: "We are absolutely delighted that the Home Office has indicated that it is about to look favourably on the issues raised in our campaign.
"It's fantastic news for all concerned that it could be on the statute books as early as the autumn. It's a credit to the team who have worked flat out getting signatures, lobbying MPs and working with Sara Payne's charity Phoenix Survivors to accomplish our aim."