Wade renews call for Sarah's Law

Wade’s News of the World has restarted naming and shaming paedophiles following the Soham murders

News of the World editor Rebekah Wade believes that the horror of Soham’s murdered 10-year-olds has convinced the public there must be a change in the law on paedophiles.

She has already restarted naming and shaming paedophiles in her newspaper in support of Sarah’s Law, her attempt to get the US Megan’s Law introduced in the UK. It would give people the right to know if a dangerous paedophile is living in their midst.

"The tide of opinion has absolutely turned on Sarah’s Law," Wade told Press Gazette this week.

"Our readers are 100 per cent behind the campaign."

But the broadsheets insist Sarah’s Law would be a step too far, encouraging vigilantism. The Guardian reprised the stories of violence against suspected paedophiles which resulted from the NoW’s first campaign.

It called NoW’s "preoccupation with identifying the most evil people in BritainÉ not just silly, but dangerous".

The Daily Telegraph and The Independent saw no justification in calling for such a law when it was not even known how Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells had died.

"They are not reflecting what every parent in Britain thinks," insisted Wade. "If you are a parent and you are asked, ‘Do you want to know if a paedophile is living next door?’ then the answer is ‘Yes’. If you say ‘No’, you are lying. I don’t think they have asked their readers who have children that question."

She explained that as soon as the Soham girls went missing, readers had phoned the NoW newsdesk asking for the paper to restart the campaign, which was launched after the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne two years ago.

"The most important thing about naming and shaming is that it was a mechanism we used to highlight the problem and get the Government interested," Wade said. "Since 1997, when the Tories rushed through the Sex Offenders Act, all the concerned agencies – the NSPCC, the chief constables, the probation service, even Nacro – have been trying to get a tighter law. It was just not at the top of the agenda. But as soon as we started naming and shaming – two weeks later – we had six pieces of legislation that the NSPCC had been campaigning for for three years.

"Naming and shaming is not the ideal way," she admitted, "but a free-for-all public access to every paedophile in the country is not the basis of Sarah’s Law. It grades paedophiles. It is only if you are a grade three paedophile, if you have a tendency to abduction or your conviction is for predatory behaviour that people in the community are allowed to know."

The story had sold a terrific amount of newspapers at the weekend, she said, because of the strength of feelings about the dead girls.

On the press pool for Soham, with copy provided by PA chief reporter Sam Greenhill, pictures by the Daily Mirror’s Helen Atkinson and film by BBC TV, Wade said: "The most important thing are the parents and family, who have to be protected, and I’m sure that every member of the press will be doing their utmost to tread very carefully. When Sarah Payne was killed I spent all that time with her parents, Sara and Michael, and the press were fantastic. They were respectful and left them alone but were on hand if anything was needed."

By Jean Morgan

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