Neighbours should know about offenders
CHILD porn distributor Matthew Clark has moved out of Uffculme after the Gazette ran a story voicing the concerns of families who lived nearby.
Police officers say the 28-year-old, who until recently lived at Popham Close, Tiverton, is now many miles away and starting a new life in a different area.
Parents in Uffculme can breathe a sigh of relief – they have one less paedophile to worry about.
But the "result" for them is a blow for another community, who, perhaps unwittingly, have a new neighbour with a deeply unpleasant criminal history.
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Clark never abused children directly, but he curated a vast library of some of the worst pornography available. Among it was a video showing a two-year-old being raped.
He also played a major part in distribution to others around the world, using an internet drop-box, perpetuating the abuse of children and the appetite for such vile material.
Understandably the parents of young children who called our reporter to let us know about his new location were horrified to have found out about the man living nearby.
Police told us he was being monitored and his risk of reoffending was low. If we ran a story telling people of his whereabouts and he skipped town, it would mean more resources have to be dedicated to monitoring him at his new address and re-registering him on the sex offenders' register.
If paedophiles are continually hounded out of every community they try to set up home in there is a real danger they will go off grid.
Despite his offending not being widely reported in 1998, Exeter paedophile James McAlpine decided to change his name by deed poll and set himself up as a tennis coach at a new location in Devon.
Police lost track of McAlpine for several months, and when they caught up with him – now going by the name Jay Powers – he was sexually abusing young boys who were left in his charge.
So was the Gazette right to publish last week's story about Clark? Should we have taken what some would call the more responsible decision to ignore the parents who called us?
We say no. Those who work in the criminal justice system, social work and teaching are in a privileged position of knowing who and where the sex offenders are. Should we add journalists to that list, treating readers as if they can't be trusted with such information? We don't afford that kind of protection to other criminals.
Powers was released from prison in 2009 and moved to near Taunton, where, thanks to media coverage, residents knew all about his past.
Perhaps if his face had been plastered over more front pages in the 1990s parents would have recognised their smiling new tennis coach for who he really was.