Editorial Comment: Populist manoeuvring

The Home Office’s latest supposed clampdown on paedophiles is as wrong-headed as it is unexpected. It took the big children’s charities, which have lobbied hard against it, completely by surprise and it is hard to see why the government believes its new scheme will make children safer.

Under the plans parents will be told whether known paedophiles are living near them, although names and addresses will be withheld. Fortunately this version of Megan’s Law – introduced in the USA following the rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka by a neighbour who was a convicted sex offender – will be piloted in just three areas.

The results of the pilot schemes are thoroughly predictable. Parents’ fears will be sparked when there is little that they can usefully do in the light of information that will necessarily be vague, vigilante action will be taken against innocent people, and the real paedophiles will be driven elsewhere. Worse, they will disappear off the radar of the multi-agency public protection arrangements set in place to afford genuine safeguards for children.

Children’s lives are too important to warrant this kind of populist manoeuvring by the government and, if the pilots go wrong, it should have the moral courage to act accordingly.

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