Labour MPs might not support Megan’s law

Former Home Office minister Angela Eagle has said Labour MPs might not support a UK version of Megan’s Law.

Speaking on BBC One’s Sunday AM programme she said she was not sure that informing local communities about paedophiles living in their area would protect children.

In the US, Megan’s law – introduced after seven-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and killed by a convicted paedophile – allows parents to check online to see if any convicted paedophiles live near them.

The News of the World has been campaigning for a similar law in the UK, allowing parents to know about paedophiles in their neighbourhood, since the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne six years ago.

Last week home secretary John Reid said he was considering plans for a Megan’s law for Britain.

But Ms Eagle is unconvinced Labour MPs would support such legislation.

“I think there would be difficulty in the parliamentary Labour party if attempts were made to introduce laws like the education reform which are based on assertion, not evidence. So we’ve got to look at the evidence – at what works to protect children,” she said.

“Above all we need to protect children. I am not convinced Megan’s law does it.

“What often happens is that paedophiles are targeted, but also people who are odd or don’t fit in, people are accused of being paedophiles and then also targeted and subject to vigilante action.”

And Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe also has serious doubts about adapting Megan’s law for the UK.

Speaking on Sky News’ Sunday Live she said: “All that [such legislation] is going to do is deter paedophiles from registering to mean that they will try to go underground.

“There are lots of ways of going underground and evading it, which there is no incentive to do if you’re address isn’t going to be published. But if it’s going to be published there’s a very clear incentive to try and get round it.

“We need not to react emotionally. We need to think very hard about what the purpose of this register is.”

Currently, multi-agency public protection panels decide on the supervision of released paedophiles and only inform parents and schools of their presence on a need-to-know basis.