Some of Britain’s most wanted child sex offenders have been identified publicly on a new website dedicated to tracking them down.
It is thought to be the first time that details of convicted paedophiles have been published nationwide by Britain’s law enforcement agencies.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre has set up the site, at www.ceop.gov.uk/wanted to appeal for information about child sex offenders who have disappeared off the radar.
They are not men wanted over unsolved crimes, but offenders who have already served punishment and then gone missing after failing to comply with legal restrictions on their movements.
Breaching these so-called "notification requirements" - which are conditions of their placement on the sex offenders register - is an arrestable offence punishable with up to five years in prison.
The five men named on the website are Alexander Colin Dalgleish, Gordon Stewart, Paul Turner (also known as Paul Francis or Geddes), Joshua Karney, who also goes by five other names, and Kamil Krawiec.
The site includes photographs, physical descriptions, additional information and a warning against vigilante action.
Dalgleish has connections to Merseyside and the West Midlands, Stewart to central, north and north west England and Scotland, Turner to the south coast, Karney to Lancashire but travels all over the UK, and Krawiec has links to Hackney and Earl’s Court in London and Birmingham.
Details of their previous convictions are not being published.
Previously, law enforcement agencies have shied away from identifying paedophiles for fear of inviting vigilante attacks and driving them underground.
For similar reasons, the Home Office has resisted the campaign for a so-called "Sarah’s Law" - named after the murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne - that would give the public access to details of sex offenders living in their community.
A review on child sex offenders commissioned in June by Home Secretary John Reid includes an examination of disclosure of information on offenders.
New proposals being considered included allowing single mothers to check the background of a new partner if they have grounds for suspicion.
Plans to give communities the right to be told by police or other authorities if there are any child offenders living in their area, but not where they live, are also being considered, the newspaper said.
The Home Office said today it could not confirm details of an ongoing review but said the assessment "starts from the position that public protection is paramount and that information shouldn’t be the sole preserve of officials".
The CEOP centre stressed that the website was not about "naming and shaming" offenders whose whereabouts are already known, but finding those who have gone missing and cannot be traced by the police.
Nevertheless, it is still an unprecedented step.
The initiative is running together with the Crimestoppers Most Wanted site, which is designed to help track down Britain’s most dangerous on-the-run criminals.
Jim Gamble, chief executive of the CEOP Centre, said: "The
success of the Crimestoppers website in gaining the support of the public to help track the UK’s most wanted criminals is unprecedented here in the UK.
"Now we need to move a lot of that success towards protecting children and safeguarding communities from harm.
"While it isn’t new for the UK police to publish details of offenders on their own sites, this is the first time that a nationwide - and indeed global - approach has been adopted."
The failure of the offenders featured on the website to comply with the authorities was an indication of a potential risk of reoffending, CEOP said.
"It is not about publishing details of all sex offenders, as this could drive the large number of compliant offenders underground and away from effective management programmes.
"What we want to do is maximise every available opportunity to locate those offenders who are actually ‘missing’ in order to protect children, young people and communities."
He added: "I cannot emphasise strongly enough the need for the public to act responsibly if they believe they know the location of a sought offender.
"They must make immediate reports of sightings so that the police can take appropriate action. Any vigilante activity will be robustly dealt with and is likely to constitute a criminal offence, resulting in arrest and prosecution.
"However, if you are a convicted offender and think you can escape your notification requirements, or think you can move out of your region and go missing, then think again. Your details may now be posted on this site."
The move coincides with the first anniversary of the Crimestoppers Most Wanted site, which has received almost 40 million hits and led to 24 arrests since it went live last November.
There have been 659 appeals on the site since it was launched.
The FBI-style web page lists Britain’s 10 most wanted criminals, and carries appeals for information on others who have gone on the run. Currently, 32 police forces and Government agencies are signed up to the website and regularly provide appeals.
The United States is to join a British-led initiative that aims to make the internet a safer place for children.
The main idea of the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) is to establish a visible police presence on the internet to deter paedophiles and reassure the public in a similar way to officers out patrolling the streets.
US agents will join other law enforcement agencies from around the world in monitoring internet chatrooms and the VGT’s website, on which young people can report the activities of suspected internet predators.