Driving "Them" Underground jpoc opinion
In the course of the News of the World campaign to "name and shame" child sex offenders, a number of people latched onto the allegation that such a campaign would somehow drive paedophiles underground where they would be a greater danger.
Now, to me, this sounded a bit like the old arguement in favour of powerful cars. You remember, that's the claim that they enable you to "accelerate out of trouble." It sounds plausible enough, especially when you're down the pub with a bunch of mates who have all had a few but honestly, does it really stand up to close scrutiny?
So, I tried to find out a little more and I was surprised.
First of all, does naming child sex offenders really drive them underground?
Well, we really do have some hard evidence on this point. As in the UK, in the US such people must register their place of residence with the authorities. However, the US already has a law that the names and addresses of these people must be published.
So, how do the numbers stack up in the two countries? In the UK, of those required to register, 97% have done so. In the US 85% have complied. Now, those both look like pretty big numbers and they seem quite impressive but, it is important to look at the numbers of those who have not registered. In the UK, just three percent have failed to register whereas in the US, the number is 15%. In other words, if these figures are a guide, the publication of the names and addresses of convicted child sex offenders will lead to five times as many concealing their locations from the authorities.
That is a worrying number. Surely the worst possible situation is that you might find yourself unknowingly living next door to a paedophile who is unknown to the police? This scenario is five times as likely when names are published than otherwise.
Remember, a registered sex offender is not just known to the police. They will be receiving treatment to help them to live normal lives. They're also less likely to reoffend.
My conclusion then is that publishing names will probably put more children at risk than not doing so.