September 2000

    Methodist Representative Denounces "'Lynch-Mob' Tactics" Against Sex Offenders
    By Heather Elizabeth Peterson

    A representative of the Methodist Church of Great Britain, which in June approved a report on the pastoral care of convicted sex offenders, has condemned the recent violence in Britain toward sex offenders.

    Rev. David Gamble, Methodist Church Secretary for Family and Personal Relationships, states that "violent 'lynch-mob' tactics" against sex offenders accomplish the opposite of what such actions are meant to achieve. "Demonizing them, 'naming and shaming' them or attacking them or their property only forces offenders underground," says Rev. Gamble.

    Rev. Gamble's comments were made in response to a request from Philia to the Methodist press office for the denomination's reaction to the violence. The press office's full response follows.

     * * *

    The News of the World's recent 'naming and shaming' campaign following the much publicized murder of  8 year old Sarah Payne has had some very destructive results. The tabloid paper published names and photographs of convicted sex offenders now living in the community having completed their sentences (sometimes many years ago). As a result, there have been violent attacks on some innocent people who happen to share the name of offenders named in the News of the World. A doctor's house has been damaged because she is a paediatrician (a word which the vandals apparently mistook for paedophile!).

    Rev David Gamble, convenor of the working party that produced this year's Methodist Church Report on The Church and Sex Offenders, said: 

      However horrific some of the offences committed by sex offenders, there can never be an excuse for violent 'lynch-mob' tactics. As a society we need to protect children and other vulnerable people from the most dangerous offenders. This may, in some cases, mean their imprisonment for life. At the same time we need to provide better support and supervision for other offenders when they reach the end of their sentences so they can  rebuild their lives in ways that do not endanger other people. Demonizing them, 'naming and shaming' them or attacking them or their property only forces offenders underground. This makes them more rather than less dangerous.

      In June 2000 the Methodist Conference adopted a report on The Church and Sex Offenders that sets out clear and strict procedures to be followed by local churches when a convicted sex offender seeks to join a congregation.  These procedures include working closely with police, probation and other agencies; undertaking a risk assessment; agreeing a 'contract' defining the basis of an offender's involvement in the church; and setting up a monitoring and support group. 

      Good practice in child protection and responding to the needs of victims and survivors are high priorities in the life of the church and nothing must be done that creates unnecessary risks for children.  But we also have a responsibility towards sex offenders, particularly those whose faith and church involvement are important in their attempt to rebuild their lives. Providing proper support and supervision for sex offenders within the community also provides proper protection to previous and potential victims. Evidence suggests that when such support and supervision is available to an offender who has undertaken therapy during their sentence, the likelihood of reoffending is much reduced.

    Related Links

    The Church and Sex Offenders [The Methodist Church of Great Britain]

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    © 2000 Heather Elizabeth Peterson
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