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'Let courts decide on release of paedophiles'.


September 21, 2000

UK: Ananova Ltd

'Let courts decide on release of paedophiles'

Courts could decide when serious sex offenders should be allowed out of jail under plans being considered by the Liberal Democrats.

Simon Hughes, the party's home affairs spokesman, said the use of "indefinite sentences" would mean a more controlled release of convicted paedophiles.

He told the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth that serious sex offenders would be given a minimum tariff but the court would assess their circumstances and whether satisfactory arrangements had been made for their release into society.

The plan was among a raft of measures supported by delegates and aimed at addressing public concerns after the murder of schoolgirl Sarah Payne. Since her death, the youngster's parents have been strong advocates of new laws to protect children from paedophiles.

Mr Hughes used his speech to criticise the News of the World's recent campaign to 'name and shame' sex offenders which resulted in public disquiet and protests across the country. He said: "The News of the World were entirely irresponsible and entirely self serving."

Mr Hughes stressed that victims should be entitled to know the date of their attacker's release from prison and the location of his whereabouts afterwards.

Access to programmes for treating sex offenders, drug and anger management were essential, he said.

Representative Gary Glover, of North Southwark and Bermondsey, insisted: "We must do more to protect children like Sarah Payne who unnecessarily lost her life at an early age."

The conference also voted for the names of UK citizens who have committed sexual offences abroad to be included in the sex offenders register.