Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger’s warning that the programme could undermine the rule of law follows the revelation that an alleged child abuser exposed on the show has disappeared.
The programme by broadcaster RTL, Tatort Internet, began on October 7 and is co-presented by Stephanie zu Guttenberg, who is a prominent child protection advocate as well as wife of Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.
“Particular caution and restraint are required here,” Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said of the show. ”There is the danger that innocents will be pilloried and damage caused, and the rule of law thrown out of balance.
“That is a high risk. The rule of law does not need public naming and shaming. We have to take care that there is no prejudgement before the justice system investigates. Our justice is extremely precious. We should preserve it.”
The Justice Minister’s remarks follow the disappearance of a 61-year-old youth centre manager who was suspended after being outed as an alleged paedophile on the programme. A spokesman for the association that runs the centre said on Monday the man had said he was going home but had never arrived.
“We are worried because neither we nor his family have had contact with him since,” the spokesman said.
A police spokesman said officers had searched for the man over the past few days without success.
“We have no clue at the moment where he is located,” he said.
A week before the national broadcast of the programme, the man had made contact via a chatroom with an RTL journalist who impersonated a 13-year-old girl from Munich. He planned to spend the night with the girl and had her meet him at a restaurant. The girl was played by an actress.
When he was confronted by the supposed mother of the girl, he said: “Nothing happened and nothing would have happened.”
Though his face was blurred on the programme, the man would have been recognisable to people who knew him.
A state prosecutor began investigating the man after the accusations by the programme were aired. According to the organisation that runs the youth centre, there was no evidence that man had committed any abuses at the centre itself.
Workers there had been very surprised, said a spokesman for the local government in Lower Franconia, where the centre is situated.
“He always insisted on a certain distance from youths,” the spokesman said.