The pounds 50,000 bill to keep paedophile safe in a cell

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The Independent Online
The cost to the public of keeping the paedophile killer Robert Oliver in a police cell in Sussex has exceeded pounds 50,000. Ian Burrell reports on the dilemma of coping with such offenders.

Sex-offender treatment centres are refusing to take responsibility for Oliver, the killer of Jason Swift, who has been living in a police cell for four months.

The public cost of looking after Oliver, who was hounded from town to town and sought refuge with the police in fear of revenge attacks by the public, has topped pounds 50,000.

Officers from Sussex police, which is paying pounds 400 a day from its budget for Oliver's keep, have been negotiating with various institutions to take the paedophile into their care. But none has been prepared to take the risk.

Last night Ray Wyre, one of Britain's leading consultants on sexual crime, said it would be "political suicide" for any sex- offender programme to agree to take Oliver on.

"Nearly all the organisations I am in contact with have been approached to have him," he said. "But the trouble is that the media are going to pursue him and these projects cannot afford the politics of it."

He added: "They have probably had to reassure the local community that the people they are working with are not too high-risk."

Mr Wyre said Oliver was part of a wider problem which involved more than 100 paedophiles who were convicted before 1991 and so are not covered by the National Paedophile Register. Many of them are now being released back into the community without supervision. Mr Wyre said the answer was to create long-term secure establishments which were something between a hospital and a prison.

Oliver, who was jailed in 1989 after being convicted of the murder of 14-year-old Jason, throttled and gang-raped in a flat in east London, first turned himself into police last October. He had been released a month earlier after serving most of a 15-year sentence but had been driven out of accommodation in Dublin, Swindon, London, Liverpool and Manchester.

He remains in the police station 24 hours a day and during the past four months has introduced some "home comforts" to his cell, where he is said by police to be happy.

At the new year Oliver agreed he would be prepared to move to a secure hospital and undergo psychiatric treatment. But no institution will have him.

Sussex police said: "We are trying to find accommodation that would be most suitable to him and, yes, it is proving difficult. We are not looking just in Sussex and we continue to seek a solution." The problem over Oliver coincides with growing concern over treatment for paedophiles in jails.

All sex offenders sentenced to more than two years are supposed to undergo a sex-offender treatment programme, which is available in more than 15 jails and is advanced compared to such services in other countries. But many serious offenders are being kept in jails where no such treatment is available.