Plan to deal with freed paedophiles

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The Independent Online
A NATIONAL committee is to be set up to handle the release and supervision of high-profile paedophiles like Sidney Cooke.

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, said a new working group will identify "high profile, difficult-to-place" sex offenders whose imminent release is "likely to trigger significant public concern". It will oversee their release and handling and "consider any funding necessary to meet likely additional accommodation costs". The group will also look at "media handling".

The team will include police and probation chiefs as well as Government officials and will provide some cash for local authorities struggling to house released sex offenders.

The announcement came in a letter to the Liberal Democrat leader, Paddy Ashdown, whose constituency, Yeovil, has been the scene of repeated demonstrations against Cooke, who protesters believed was being held at the town's police station. Cooke was released from prison after serving nine years for the rape and manslaughter of schoolboy Jason Swift.

Mr Straw said he wanted to avoid interfering with local co-operation between agencies, "but it is important the Government should give local agencies the very best support it can". A Home Office spokesman said the number of offenders expected to be handled by the committee would be in "single figures".

Lord Williams of Mostyn, the junior Home Office minister, yesterday said that the Government was considering the question of indeterminate sentences for paedophiles in the light of the Cooke case.

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