Anger as paedophile moves to victim's village

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The Independent Online
A COMPULSIVE paedophile who will be released from prison in two weeks is to return to the Oxfordshire village where one of his victims still lives, provoking a fresh debate about how society should deal with released offenders.

Unlike other recently released dangerous paedophiles, Rhys Hughes has refused to be voluntarily placed in secure accommodation and is adamant that he will return to his home in Sonning Common.

Hughes, who was sentenced to 10 years in 1992 for the rape and buggery of nine children, also refused treatment for his offending behaviour while in prison.

News of his imminent release comes as the Prison Service considers using a chemical castration technique as part of its treatment of compulsive sex offenders. Hospital trials with released offenders who agreed to have monthly injections of a drug which curbs their sex drive have had encouraging results.

Hughes' decision to return to Sonning Common has provoked anger and consternation in the village. Geraldine Pendry, who has four children aged between four and thirteen, said: "No sentence is long enough for someone who does that to children."

She predicted that the paedophile's presence would drive children off the streets. "The atmosphere here is going to change," she said. "Mothers are going to be a lot more cautious after he is let out."

Thames Valley Police have set up a 24-hour help line, staffed by female officers, so that his victim can contact them if she feels threatened. And they are vetting a series of homeowners who have agreed to offer safe houses, identified by Neighbourhood Watch-style stickers, to which children can run if they feel under threat.

Probation officers admitted last night that because Hughes, 65, was sentenced three months before the Criminal Justice Act 1991 became law, no restriction could be forced on his movements. Two other paedophiles, Sidney Cooke and Robert Oliver, recently accepted voluntary restrictions because they were fearful for their own safety.

Last night, Harry Fletcher, of the National Association of Probation Officers, said Hughes must be persuaded to go into secure accommodation. "The only way forward is to coerce him into accepting controls on his movement," he said.

The chemical castration trials involved two men, described as "self-admitted compulsive paedophiles", who have abstained from reoffending over a seven- year period after being administered with the drug goserelin acetate, which lowers testosterone levels.

Last night, the Prison Service said: "We are discussing its potential use as part of the overall sex-offenders' treatment programme. When things like this come to light, clearly we would wish to see if there is any potential for its use."

Among those who have responded well to the treatment is Andrew Witham, 37, who is described by his doctors as a "hypersexual, predatory paedophile". Mr Witham committed his first offences at the age of 16. He first took goserelin in 1986 but his treatment was stopped when the Mental Health Commission intervened because it feared possible side-effects.

Mr Witham challenged the decision and in 1992 a judge agreed to spare him a life sentence on condition that he took the drug as part of a programme overseen by Russell Reid, a consultant psychiatrist at Hillingdon Hospital, west London.

Last night, Dr Reid said: "Most sex offenders I know are breaking their necks for this kind of treatment. You can switch off their libido by giving them an injection once a month."

Dr Reid is also treating a second patient who is 38, with an emotional age of 13. The man, who has an obsession with prepubertal girls, lives with his mother and makes a poor living selling goods from catalogues. He, too, has avoided reoffending since starting the programme nearly seven years ago.

Goserelin, which is manufactured under the trade name Zoladex, is licensed for the treatment of prostate and breast cancer. David Parker, a spokesman for Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, which produces Zoladex, said: "Whether or not a psychiatrist working in a Home Office establishment wishes to use it for treatment of a sex offender is entirely a matter for him. But it's not a registered use for the drug."

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