No hiding place for dangerous sex offenders

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The Independent Online
DETAILS about the whereabouts of paedophiles following their release from prison can be revealed to the public by the authorities, the Court of Appeal ruled in a landmark judgment yesterday.

The police and other government agencies will now be legally entitled to publicise where the freed sex offenders are living "to protect the public and in particular children", and the media will be allowed to name them.

The judgment comes just days after it was announced that up to 150 convicted sex offenders will be released from prison into the community without compulsory supervision. Six of those are said to be as potentially dangerous as child-killer Robert Oliver, who has already cost the public pounds 100,000 in efforts to protect him from from vigilantes, and children from him.

Lord Woolf, Master of the Rolls, sitting with Lord Justice Schiemann and Lord Justice Robert Walker stressed, however, that "disclosure should only be made when there is a pressing need", and urged that more should be done to find paedophiles appropriate accommodation after they had served their jail sentences.

The judges rejected an appeal by Peter and Christine Thorpe against a decision by North Wales police to release information about them. They also lifted an order preventing the media from naming the pair after being told that their present address was not known.

Mr Thorpe, 46, and his 42-year-old wife were described as "extremely dangerous people who will pose a considerable risk to children" in a report by Northumbria police. Both had left prison in July l996 after serving seven years and four months of a 11-year sentence for the rape of a girl of 16, and a series of indecent assaults on young children.

Afterwards they had to flee from a series of places after local communities in the area became aware of their identity and crimes. The court was told the couple had co-operated with the authorities in the past, but they had now "gone to ground".

Giving judgment, Lord Woolf stated: "We agree with a Divisional Court that the policy of North Wales police was not unlawful, nor was the action of of the police in giving effect to that policy.

"The more recent guidance of the Home Secretary is an improvement on that policy. It is reassuring to know that the latest policy will be applied in the future. Regrettably recent experience has confirmed that while some former offenders' behaviour has changed after serving their sentence, other offenders retain the propensity to repeat their offending and if given the opportunity to do so, commit further offences of the same or similar nature".

Paul Cavadino, principal officer of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, said the judgment was welcome because it allowed the police to give out information only when there was a pressing need to do so. "It will act as a valuable check on the way police forces decide whether to disclose sex offenders' identities to third parties. The court's emphasis on finding stable accommodation for released sex offenders is particularly welcome."

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