LONDON — Britain's News of the World tabloid came under heavy fire Sunday for printing the names and photographs of 49 convicted pedophiles as the nation reels from the abduction and killing of a young girl.
Public anger at child sex offenders has been running high since 8-year-old Sarah Payne disappeared close to her grandparents' home in southern England on July 1. Her naked body was found dumped in a field July 17.
"We are taking the first step to publish the names and addresses of known sex offenders, simply so that parents will know who are the monsters in our midst," the top-selling News of the World said in an editorial.
But the newspaper's decision to identify the 49 people--in a campaign to "name and shame" all of Britain's 110,000 known pedophiles--was condemned as dangerous.
The National Assn. for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders said the paper's action would make it harder for authorities to keep track of known pedophiles and would put children at greater risk.
"The News of the World's action is grossly irresponsible," Paul Cavadino, the association's director of policy, said in a statement.
"Past experience shows when pedophiles are publicly identified in this way some of them go [into hiding] fearing vigilante attacks."
Britain established a sex offenders register in 1997 that allows authorities to be alerted to the arrival of a convicted pedophile after his or her release from prison.
The News of the World said its decision to identify child sex offenders was vindicated by a poll it commissioned showing that 88% of 641 respondents thought they should be told if a pedophile was living in their area.
"We're convinced we're doing the right thing," Executive Editor Robert Warren told BBC Radio. "It's about protecting children. It's something the News of the World has been keen on for a long, long time and has pursued with great energy. If it sells newspapers, so be it."
Hundreds have visited the site in West Sussex where Sarah's body was found to lay flowers and cards in support of her family.