`Attack' forces sex offender to flee

`Attack' forces sex offender to flee
20 August 2000
Independent On Sunday
Robert Verkaik

AN ANTI-PAEDOPHILE campaigner convicted of assaulting young girls has been forced out of his home after a suspected arson attack.

Roger Gardener, 56, who was found guilty of indecently assaulting two young girls last month, is on bail awaiting sentence from Cardiff Crown Court. The unemployed lorry driver fled his home at Blackwood, Gwent, south Wales, after an extensive fire and was keeping his new address secret last night.

Before the court case, he had mounted a local campaign against internet pornography. Earlier this month, after the court case, he had been told to register as a sex offender.

In a separate development, Michael Horgan, 55, one of those targeted by protesters after being accused of being a paedophile, said yesterday that he was suing the News of the World, which had published his name - shared by a known paedophile - in its list of sex offenders.

The engineer from south London has instructed a leading firm of libel lawyers to sue the paper whose "name and shame" campaign sparked a month of mob violence. The defamation specialists, Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners, will bring an estimated #100,000 claim against the News of the World.

The Independent on Sunday reported last week that innocent victims of the tabloid's campaign will have a strong claim for damages. At least two more innocent victims of the vigilante attacks are considering court action.

Mr Horgan, who now lives with a round-the-clock police guard, was targeted by an anti-paedophile group after his "exposure" by the News of the World. His name, telephone number and address then appeared on an incorrect list of paedophiles that was circulated in the Lewisham area. Although he was able to convince some of his neighbours that it was a case of mistaken identity, he had become "terrified" for his family, he said. All telephone calls to his home are now diverted.

Cameron Doley, a partner at Peter Carter-Ruck, which will take the case on a "no win, no fee" basis, said the News of the World had refused to publish a clarification.
"We took the action before the paper withdrew its campaign. The paper has written back claiming it has done nothing wrong. But that is no consolation to my client. There can't be anything much worse than being described as a paedophile."
Mr Doley said the News of the World picture accompanying Mr Horgan's name in the list was too indistinct to make it clear his client was not the paedophile Michael Horgan. "It was simply a picture of a white, middle-aged man with glasses."

The paper began its campaign after the death of Sarah Payne, eight, who was murdered last month in Sussex. After the newspaper decided to print the names of convicted sex offenders, some people across the country took the law into their own hands. Four nights of rioting occurred in Portsmouth aimed at known and suspected paedophiles.

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