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UK Won’t Reveal Sex Offender Log

August 6, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ The British government on Sunday said it would not make public a register of sex offenders, despite a newspaper-led campaign that has gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures.

The Sunday tabloid News of the World said 300,000 people had signed its petition urging the government to give parents controlled access to registers of convicted sex offenders in their areas, and to establish life prison sentences without the possibility of parole.

Home Office Minister Paul Boateng said the government would strengthen laws to protect children from abuse, but defended the current system under which information about the whereabouts of sex offenders is handled by police and probation officers.

``Every year since the government came into power we have taken action to better protect children. We continue to do so _ the law will be strengthened,″ he told the British Broadcasting Corp.

But, he added, ``decisions about whether or not people are told names and addresses are not matters for newspapers, not matters for governments. They are matters for the police and probation service working together.″

The News of the World proposals _ named ``Sarah’s Law″ in memory of 8-year-old Sarah Payne, whose naked body was discovered in a field two weeks after she disappeared on July 1 in southern England _ have been backed by police and child-welfare groups.

They are modeled on ``Megan’s Law,″ the U.S. legislation named for Megan Kanka, a New Jersey child who was raped and murdered by a repeat sex offender.

The News of the World announced on Friday that it would end a two-week campaign to ``name and shame″ those it said had sexually abused children.

The newspaper published photographs of people it said were offenders, along with identifying details and locations. The campaign was followed by a series of vigilante attacks on people identified in the newspaper and on innocent people mistaken for them.

On Thursday, about 150 people rioted outside the home of a man wrongly identified as a pedophile.

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