Home Office minister Gerry Sutcliffe

UK Megan’s Law ‘not simple transposition’

UK Megan’s Law ‘not simple transposition’

A future UK implementation of Megan’s law is by far from a done deal, a Home Office minister has said, as fundamental differences exist between the US and British legal systems.

Gerry Sutcliffe yesterday visited Maureen and Richard Kanka, the parents of murdered schoolgirl Megan, whose death at the hands of a convicted sex offender in 1994 sparked US legislators to pass new paedophile legislation known as Megan’s Law.

The meeting was part of a fact-finding trip in the US to discover whether a similar law allowing parents to know when a sex offender moves into their area could be introduced in the UK.

But Mr Sutcliffe has explained that it is not as straightforward as simply passing the law in Britain, and that his meeting with Mr and Mrs Kanka had reinforced this view.

“They said, quite rightly, that the UK will be affected differently from the US, because of the different structures that exist. You cannot simply transpose things across. You have got to look at the context,” he said.

“We certainly do not want to go back to the situation we had with marches in Portsmouth and vigilantes attacking paediatricians.”

Mr Sutcliffe has been in the US for the past week after being sent by the home secretary, John Reid, and has already met with legislators and people involved in the passing and implementation of Megan’s law, which is now federal law in all 50 states.

There have been campaigns for similar legislation to be introduced in Britain, dubbed Sarah’s law after seven-year-old Sarah Payne who was abducted and murdered by known paedophile Roy Whiting six years ago.

However, opponents of Megan’s law saw that it creates vigilantism and forces convicted sex offenders to go underground in a bid to hide their identities.

The Home Office minister has a second trip to the US scheduled in the autumn, and any recommendations are not expected to be made until then.