Chris Wittwer, self-styled Paedophile Shamer
Child abuse is and always will be one of the worst crimes imaginable. It causes universal outrage and the very thought that abuse could be going on in your town, your street, or that convicted sex offenders are living among us, is enough to spur some people in to action.
On top of employment background checks, it can be reasonably argued that parents should be made aware of predators in their area who pose a potential risk to their children. As of 2010 there is now an official mechanism under UK law that allows parents, guardians and close relatives of children to formally ask their local police force for information on child sex offenders. This was in response to the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne in 2000, by convicted sex offender Roy Whiting.
Like a lot of society’s problems, how we deal with child abusers is not a perfected science. In an ideal world they would be cured of their interest in children and the continued threat would be completely removed. Until then the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme (CSODS) seems mostly to be about putting people’s minds at ease rather than having any measurable impact on protecting children. In practise the so called ‘Sarah’s law’ probably would not have protected Sarah. Whiting abducted her several miles away from where he lived, while she was out playing by herself near her grandparents home. As a convicted child sex offender he was in fact questioned within 24 hours of her going missing.
Unless known child abusers have their movements permanently restricted, the only way to protect children is by not letting them out of sight. Would knowing about every convicted child sex offender in the world make a difference during a crime of opportunity?
The CSOD scheme has therefore been criticized for a lack of proof that it reduces a child’s risk. It has even been argued that it might drive paedophiles underground . Another common argument against it, is that it could give rise to vigilantism. A scenario where people use the information disclosed by the scheme to pro-actively target child sex offenders, even when no further crime has been committed.
This is levied stronger at those who create their own public websites and Facebook groups and do the finger pointing themselves, without the self-imposed restrictions of the government. Some of these vigilantes are getting it wrong, and some of their own actions are immoral and verging on criminality.
With this in mind let’s take a closer look at C.H.R.I.S. (Children Have Rights In Society) – a website run by a convicted football hooligan who isn’t necessarily the best poster child for vigilantism.
(Note: this article was written in 2013, the CHRIS website has gone through name changes and other alterations in the years since).
What Is C.H.R.I.S?
Children Have Rights In Society (now going by ‘The UK & Ireland Database’) is run by a man named Chris Wittwer. It includes the core website UKpaedos-Exposed.com, which boasts millions of web hits, and the Facebook page UK database for sex offences against children, which has over 100,000 likes. The man himself has had a modest amount of mainstream media coverage including an inflammatory appearance on the Sun’s talk radio show, where an apparent paedophile was allowed on the air to debate .
At the time of writing the CHRIS database claims to have named and shamed over 17,000 paedophiles/child abusers in the UK and Ireland, who can all be searched on the website. Several statistical claims are also made.
A paragraph from the homepage reads…
The 43 police forces in England and Wales recorded 23,097 child sex offences in 2011 and is equivalent to 444 attacks a week — or one child abused every 20 minutes, and the abuse is getting worse with paedophile rings being set up in almost every county in the UK.
While there have been 23,097 recorded child sex offences in the UK between 2010 and 2011 according to a Freedom of Information request by the NSPCC , fewer than 10% resulted in a conviction and this statistic also includes 16, 17 and 18 year olds, which is beyond the scope of paedophilia and child abuse.
While Chris Wittwer is free to do what he likes with his website, several of the pages dilute his mission statement of “Naming & Shaming UK Convicted Paedophiles and Child Abusers”.
For example the 1997 case of Conservative councillor Michael Howden who was convicted of raping and molesting two 17 year old girls, while a sickening crime, was not child abuse as they were not children.
Likewise the 2009 story of Hull City councillor Steven Bayes and his 17 year old boyfriend, strictly speaking has nothing to do with child abuse. Not only was the young man his consenting partner, but was not a child. Northern Irish law has now been amended to reflect 16 as the age of homosexual consent.
Stockport councillor Neil Derbyshire who was convicted in 2002 for sexually assaulting a 16 year old boy cannot psychologically or legally be recognized as a paedophile or child abuser either, based on this crime.
Yes these cases are obviously disturbing, but to using them to bolster an image of child abuse rings constantly being set up to snatch young children off the streets is misleading, as are the statistics used. If this was a government operated database they would certainly be called on to clarify the purpose of overstating the figures or naming and shaming people like those listed above. The CSOD scheme for example aims to only divulge information when the sex offender is deemed a current threat to children.
If one is to take on such a position in society as exposing paedophiles and child abusers, accuracy and clarity is important.
One of the reasons why the government do not publish a public list of child abusers and their locations is because of the potential for vigilante justice. Concerned parents can contact the police for information under certain criteria, but Joe Blogs cannot just go online and find a list of addresses or locales. CHRIS does not follow the same logic. The website allows you to select a county and then it lists short snippets of information about the ‘paedophile’ (often taken from newspaper articles at the time of the conviction). These often include street names.
There’s no telling how much of the information is outdated. Most sex offenders understandably move on from the area they were convicted and many cases listed on the CHRIS site go back years. So what happens when outdated information is used for hate campaigns?
WideShut has learned the story of one lady who claims to have been left traumatized after the CHRIS website displayed information about a paedophile on her street. While this man did indeed live with the lady and their daughter, he never returned to the family home following his conviction and was promptly divorced. Despite this they say some time later the property and a vehicle were attacked and vandalized by misinformed vigilantes. While we’ll never know if this was directly related to the CHRIS profile (it could have been local chatter), Wittwer played a manipulative game, saying he would only take down the information if he was provided with an up to date locale for the convict. This is blackmail!
As of writing the paedophile profile that references the outdated location is still profiled on the CHRIS website. The lady in question has since moved on herself, leaving a completely unrelated resident at risk if the exact address has been exposed.
The police were not cooperative with the mother and daughter in question.
As is often the case with online communities, squabbles and infighting can end up published for all to see. This can be overlooked by users of video gaming forums or other entertainment hangouts, but you’d think somebody like Chris Wittwer would keep his website clean and professional considering the subject matter at hand. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. WideShut is in possession of multiple screen captures that show in 2011 he was posting names and photos of people he claimed to be disrupting the CHRIS campaign.
Regardless of whether some of the accused may have had fallings out with Mr. Wittwer, were critical of the website, or may have even actively been trying to disrupt it, one can’t ignore the immorality of publishing information about people who are not paedophiles on a website that exposes paedophiles. In fact he went as far as to insinuate that some people were paedophiles and paedophile supporters.
“Over the past 3 years I’ve been attacked by paedophiles on various forums, on facebook and even on the street,” claims Witter. “Yet over the past 6 months, a new campaign run by someone called (redacted) has been set up…”
The person he listed as being behind the anti-CHRIS campaign is not a convicted paedophile, nor is anybody else he named and shamed during this period of squabbling. In fact many were victims of child abuse and subsequently became fighters against it. They had just fallen out with Wittwer over how the site was operated. Perhaps he saw them as his competition or a risk to his growing popularity?
Indeed, Wittwer went on to make numerous allegations about people in a bizarre tirade detailing how his paedophile naming skills are the best and how he has the moral high-ground over the techniques of other groups. WideShut has even seen messages where Wittwer threatened somebody with being named as part of the ‘hate campaign’ if they didn’t divulge the personal information of somebody else. Again this is blackmail!
There’s an awful lot of ego and pettiness on display for somebody who holds themselves in such a moral position.
Under the various incarnations of the site Wittwer has taken donations from the public.
CHRIS is not a registered charity and Wittwer has not provided accounts for the donations made through the website or the various charity fund-raisers undertaken in support of CHRIS. WideShut is aware of a number allegations about irregularities surrounding the donation policy. One Facebook page simply asks in the header…“Where Did Our Donations Go Chris?”
Associated With A Convicted Child Sex Offender?
One of the more troubling allegations made about Chris Wittwer is that he was knowingly corresponding with a convicted child sex offender and chose not to list them on the website. Several people have come forward to claim that Wittwer even allowed this man to photograph an anti-Child Abuse rally. Although we have not been able to verify this, we can confirm through various messages that Wittwer is aware of the man in question and believed him to be a “3 x convicted paedophile”.
Whether the man in question really is a paedophile, as of yet cannot be confirmed, but Wittwer seemed to think he was and does not list him on the website. Why? Is Chris just a liar, or was he knowingly protecting a paedophile? Either way it doesn’t say much about his character.
Chris Wittwer the Football Hooligan
You would think that the person behind a naming and shaming website would be an upstanding member of society, perhaps somebody who could be a role model for the children they work to protect. Yet on top of some of the questionable actions mentioned above, Chris Wittwer is also a convicted football hooligan.
The website for the local Exeter Newspaper reported in June 2011 about how CCTV captured the moment a group of football hooligans launched into a violent fight with rival supporters .
“The images were used to help convict seven Exeter City followers who were involved in a city centre brawl.”
The newspaper goes on to name and shame Mr. Wittwer for his role in the mindless violence…
“In one CCTV image, football hooligan Christopher Wittwer is seen to throw a punch towards a rival fan. The 35-year-old, of Oakmead, Aylesbeare, who set up a controversial anti-paedophile website last summer, was jailed for 10 months after admitting affray.”
It might also be worth mentioning that Wittwer is an associate of the English Defense League, an apparent anti-immigration and anti-Islamic extremist political protest group, that more often than not devolves in to blatant racism and hooliganism. The stereotype of members being bald, beer guzzling, football hooligans, might not be far off.
The Jimmy Savile scandal has taught us that we cannot always rely on the police, government or trusted institutions to protect our children. Yet if private individuals are to replace state systems with their own, they need to meet a higher moral and practical standard.
Chris Wittwer does not. His website exaggerates the risk by using incorrect statistics, and lists crimes that by any accepted definition do not involve child abuse, which dilutes the stated goal. By profiling convicts using old newspaper snippets he might also give the impression that child abusers are in your area when they moved on years ago. This could potentially lead to misdirected vigilante justice, but more importantly makes the platform useless. How do you protect a child when there’s no way of knowing if a paedophile is still in the area or a different one has moved in? The Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme keeps a direct track of convicted child sex offenders, does CHRIS? Then there’s the petty infighting and ego, and Wittwer’s part time football hooliganism.
Deep down Chris Wittwer might be waging a noble war in his heart, but we struggle to see what service he is really providing the public. In reality all the site and Facebook page does is wheel out an endless stream of paedophile headlines, so his strangely obsessed followers can spend their time lashing out in anger in the comments. It’s all just a bit bizarre.