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SARAH'S LAW UNSPUN

10-04-2007

One of Britain's leading child sex experts has welcomed government plans for new laws to protect youngsters from paedophiles - but says that talk of a “Sarah's Law” is nothing more than “spin”.

Ray Wyre, a consultant who used to run the Gracewell Clinic in Moseley, has long campaigned for the right of single parents to know if their new partner is a convicted child abuser, and legislation - due to be piloted in Wansdyke, North Somerset - will permit that.

Entire communities won't have the right to know the identity of every paedophile living in their area, though - even though this the key demand made by tabloid newspapers such as The Sun, following the murder of toddler Sarah Payne by Roy Whiting.

Wyre, who's now based in Milton Keynes said: “Sex offenders go for the weakest link, and because we've closed down so many of the other loopholes - for example in the voluntary sector - that will very often be a single mother.

“She might then have her child taken off her by Social Services because she's hasn't notified them that she's living with someone who could harm her child.

“The trouble is that everybody hates paedophiles - until you fall in love one. These new plans mean that a girlfriend will be able to carry out a kind of Criminal Records Bureau check on her new boyfriend.”

Talk of a “Sarah's Law” is wide of the mark though - even though it's being presented like that by both the government and the tabloids - “That's just spin” says Wyre.

The truth is that mums and dads will simply be given an indication of the number of paedophiles living locally, but without any indication of who they are or what their addresses are.

Wyre's verdict is that, “this is really about is education. Everybody should live as though they have an offender in their street anyway, because they could have.

“The worst thing you could do is give offenders names and addresses. The 97% compliance we currently have with the Sex Offenders Register would drop - people would go underground.”

Given Wyre's analysis, the complicity between the government and the mainstream media in deliberately creating a false impression of the proposed legislation is remarkable.

On the one hand, we have an administration that is desperate to show a popular touch and on the other newspapers like The Sun which are keen to celebrate a campaigning victory - hence the “Sarah's Law” headlines.

The reality is, encouragingly, rather different.

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