Police fear innocent people could be in danger and children put at serious risk as sex offenders are exposed on a Facebook group and driven underground.
A leading detective in charge of monitoring paedophiles says offenders in Barrow have already been threatened as a direct result of their details being put on the social networking site.
- Not all sex offenders are pedophiles, and I wish the police, media and politicians would stop using this term as if all sex offenders are pedophiles! The fact is, true pedophiles, by definition, are the minority.
Detective Inspector Nick Coughlan said there was a real risk of vigilante attacks due to the activities of the three-week old group Communities Against Paedophiles Southlakes, which has so far attracted more than 3,000 members and is planning a public meeting on April 18.
- Of course there is a risk of vigilante attacks, and it's a growing problem in the UK and the USA, just see this post. And this is exactly why the online registry needs to be taken offline and used by the police only!
He said they had already managed to shut down the group’s initial ‘name and shame’ page as Facebook said it breached its rights and responsibilities statement. He said he was waiting to hear back if CAPS was doing the same.
- Wow Facebook, when the police get involved, then you shut something down? We've reported many pages, groups, etc and you've done nothing about them, and clearly they are hate pages.
DI Coughlan said there are more than 100 registered sex offenders living in south Cumbria and they were all being monitored closely by the multi-agency MAPPA.
He added that CAPS was putting information on its page that was out of date and could lead to innocent people and possibly the sex offenders’ victims being wrongly targeted.
The detective said: “We are already aware that people have been approached as a direct result of this group. There is a real concern based on experience of other areas of the country that, in situations like this, offenders that we are managing could go underground.”
“This will create a greater risk to children and vulnerable people.”
He cited Portsmouth as a place were misinformation and misunderstanding had seen a paediatrician attacked after being mistaken for a paedophile, during seven days of protests after The News of the World named 200 sex offenders in the wake of the murder by known paedophile [name withheld] of eight-year-old school girl Sarah Payne.
The paper launched a ‘Sarah’s Law’ campaign to open up the sex offenders’ register to public scrutiny but the campaign was blamed for inciting a number of vigilante attacks.
DI Coughlan added: “Our fear is that similar incidents could happen here.”
“A lot of the publicly available information that is being put on Facebook is also out of date. It is often the last address they lived at. A lot of abuse is in a family setting and the offender may never return but his family and the victim may still live at that address.”
“As a result there is a high risk of properties being targeted yet the offender is not there.”
The detective said the Sarah Payne case happened years ago and added: “We manage sex offenders a lot better now. The way sex offenders are managed in the community is not just by us but a multi-agency approach.”
“Our concern is that this group could be pushing sex offenders underground and could further increase their risk of offending.”
- Well the fact is, at least in the USA, is that most sex offenders do not re-offend, and that is backed by many studies.
He added that offenders are not put back in the community until all agencies are 100 per cent sure they are no longer a risk.
DI Coughlan added that anyone with concerns about someone who had contact with a child could easily check their background under the Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme.
CAPS spokeswoman, 27-year-old Keilly Devlin said as a result of what the police had said they would be removing addresses from the site.
She added: “In my opinion and in our defence we can’t stop people being annoyed with paedophiles, we can’t police all our members and can’t guarantee they won’t approach a paedophile in the same way the police can’t guarantee the paedophile won’t re-offend.”
“I have not heard from any of our members or from people locally of offenders being approached, we don’t condone violence.”
“All we are doing is getting our information from the media so if we are driving them underground so are they.”
“You would not believe the amount of emails I have received from victims thanking us as a group for giving them closure.”
“If the police would like to give me the names of the people approaching the paedophiles we will block them, and we will take addresses of offenders off future posts.”
- Why don't you just go arrest the people harassing ex-offenders and their families, and throw them in jail / prison for harassment?
John Wright, an administrator on CAPS, added: “Who places the children in more danger? CAPS or the public protection monitoring unit?”
“CAPS names and shames paedophiles so parents know who they are. PPU allows paedophiles to be anonymous so they can shift through the community unnoticed, as long as they visit a police station once a year and a home visit every now and then.”