PHILLIP Schofield, the tv presenter, has apologised for ambushing the British Prime Minister with a list of suspected paedophiles, saying he would never have been involved in any kind of witch hunt.
Sources close to David Cameron said he was not happy about being handed a list of suspected abusers on ITV's This Morning and thought the issue "was not handled well" by the programme.
Mr Cameron did not look at the list and warned there is a danger that the current hunt for child abusers turns into a "witch-hunt" against gay people.
Downing Street later branded the episode as a "silly stunt" and warned against 'trial by Twitter.'
Mr Schofield said he had found the names after spending "about three minutes" trawling the internet.
There are fears that Schofield may have accidentally revealed the list on screen as he presented it to Mr Cameron.
He later said that a "misjudged camera angle" may have inadvertently exposed some of the names.
This afternoon the presenter added: "If any viewer was able to identify anyone listed, I would like to apologise and stress that was never my intention.
"I was not accusing anyone of anything and it is essential that it is understood that I would never be part of any kind of witch hunt.
"Unfortunately there may have been a misjudged camera angle for a split second as I showed the Prime Minister some information I had obtained from the internet.
"I asked for his reaction to give him the opportunity to make a point which he very clearly made about the dangers of any witch hunt."
Asked at a regular Westminster media briefing what Mr Cameron thought of This Morning's actions, a spokesman made it clear the Prime Minister had been displeased by the ambush.
"The point he was making was that there are some extremely serious allegations. We need to get to the bottom of those. We have put in place in relation to the case in Wales a review to enable us to do that.
"But these issues need to be looked at properly and people shouldn't throw accusations around and smear people. If they have got allegations, if they have evidence, they should hand it to the police.
"We should not have people throwing names around, throwing allegations around and trial by Twitter.
"There are lots of accusations flying round and many accusations on the internet. We need to be very careful. If there are allegations, they need to be looked at properly in the right way by the relevant authorities.
"People need to be cautious of the fact that naming names could have implications for future criminal prosecutions."
Rob Wilson, a Tory MP for Reading East, said the programme should apologise properly as its "actions could damage innocent people".
The Prime Minister has promised a number of inquiries into "shocking" allegations of child abuse in recent weeks, including claims that a Tory grandee raped a boy of 13 in north Wales in the 1970s.
However, he cautioned against getting carried away in a rush to identify new abusers, amid a spate of inquiries into the North Wales abuse, Jimmy Savile and other celebrities.
"I've heard all sorts of names being banded around and what then tends to happen is, of course, everyone sits around and speculates about people. Some of whom are alive, some of whom are dead," he told This Morning.
"I do think it's very important that anyone who's got any information about any paedophile no matter how high up in the country or whether they are alive or dead, go to the police.
"There is a danger, if we're not careful, that this can turn into a sort of witch-hunt, particularly against people who are gay."
William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, also promised today to leave "no stone unturned" in the hunt for the truth about the scale of child abuse.
He has been accused by one of the alleged victims of "stifling" a previous inquiry into the North Wales abuse by making its remit too narrow.
"It is very, very important that we do everything possible to get to the truth about these matters," he told ITV News. "It's really of huge importance, that’s why I ordered an inquiry back in 1996 and I strongly support what the Home Secretary has announced this week.
"If there’s anything more to look at it must be looked at. Really, there must be no stone unturned in these matters. So, I welcome what the Home Secretary has announced and let’s make sure that anything that can be discovered, any additional fact that can discovered is actually found."