Child killer to be tagged on release from jail

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The Independent Online
THE NOTORIOUS child-killer and paedophile Sidney Cooke is to be fitted with an electronic tag to enable police and probation officers to keep track of him after he is released next week.

Cooke has also agreed to be supervised by the probation service and will be housed in secure accommodation at a secret location outside London.

The Home Office has contacted probation leaders throughout the country in an attempt to find a place where Cooke, aged 68, can be kept under surveillance by the police and safe from vigilantes.

The elaborate arrangements are needed because of a loop-hole in the law that allows Cooke and five other dangerous paedophiles to be released from jail without supervision.

It is understood that the police have forced Cooke to co-operate and voluntarily go to a secure hostel or unit after threatening publicly to disclose his whereabouts if he simply left jail and moved into private accommodation. By agreeing to be fitted with an electronic tag - devices which are being increasingly used to monitor criminals, the police will be alerted when he leaves his accommodation and can ensure he does not go close to areas containing schools and playgrounds.

Cooke has refused to have any clinical treatment, but is believed to have become increasingly fearful for his safety once he leaves jail after serving 11 years of a 16-year sentence.

No suitable secure housing could be found in London, where Cooke - who comes from Hackney - wanted to stay, so he is being sent to his second "choice". He is due to be released on Monday but the authorities are expected to try and slip him secretly out of Wandsworth jail in south-west London without alerting journalists and demonstrators.

The authorities are desperate to avoid the public hysteria that followed the release of Robert Oliver, who along with Cooke was part of the paedophile gang that raped and killed 14-year-old Jason Swift. Police in Brighton were powerless to act as they watched Oliver contact a convicted paedophile and then visit a library and the seafront to watch children. He later had to go into hiding and stayed in a police cell for about four months at a cost of about pounds 100,000 before agreeing to receive treatment at a private clinic.

The cases of Cooke and Oliver highlight the difficulties the authorities face with a dealing with sex offenders who are not covered by tough new laws. There are 150 offenders currently in prison who will escape any control when they come out of jail. About six are considered to be extremely dangerous.

Offenders covered by the new legislation, which came into force in October 1992, can be forced to have treatment, stay in secure accommodation and be supervised by probation officers.

The Association of Chief Officers of Probation yesterday urged the Government to set up a "national co-ordinating board on dangerous sex offenders" to draw up a national practices and treatment of people sentenced before 1992.