Jailed sex attackers fear freedom after vigilante death of paedophile

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A succession of vigilante attacks against paedophiles has sent a "wave of fear" through prisons, causing terror among sex offenders awaiting release.

A succession of vigilante attacks against paedophiles has sent a "wave of fear" through prisons, causing terror among sex offenders awaiting release.

Prison managers say the alarm sweeping through sex offender units has resulted in some paedophiles saying they would rather remain incarcerated than risk going home.

The panic follows the killing six weeks ago of William Malcolm, a child sex attacker shot in the head on his doorstep in north-east London. Other sex offenders have been hounded from homes and hostels by groups of vigilantes.

Despite government claims that dangerous paedophiles must remain in prison, child sex offenders are being released regularly and many reoffend. There are fears that vigilantism could drive them into hiding, making police surveillance even more difficult and increasing the chances that they will strike again.

Chief probation officers said yesterday that the Government would need more secure and highly supervised units for released paedophiles - such as the one inside Nottingham prison used to house the predatory offenders Robert Oliver and Lennie Smith.

In Grendon prison near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, paedophiles being prepared for release have said they are fearful for their future. Andrew, 37, who served nearly five years for sex attacks on children, has asked to go to a hostel near London rather than return to his native Wales. "People say you are bound to be looking forward to it but time is flying by for the wrong reasons because I am shit scared of being allowed out," he said. "I'm supposed to be looking forward to it but I'm not."

Andrew said he was concerned at being cut off from the specialist treatment he receives at Grendon, where he is housed on a wing exclusively for sex offenders. "In here people know what we have done and they accept it," he said. "When I was at Dartmoor I was fearful of having jugs of hot water thrown at me. Those are the same fears I have now about getting out. What if someone is waiting for me when I get off the train or go to buy some fags in the morning?"

"Banter" among the jailed offenders focused on losing weight by running from gangs of vigilantes and spending money on paint thinners to clean abusive slogans from windows, he said.

Jenny Stead, a probation officer responsible for housing the released sex offenders, said they had become "the modern-day folk devils".

Alan, a former schoolteacher serving 10 years for sex offences against boys and due to leave jail next year, said a recent dream that he was back home was a nightmare. "When I woke up I was relieved to find I was still in prison," he said.

At Grendon, sex offenders undergo intensive group-based psychotherapy to uncover the deepest roots of their behaviour. Many have themselves been abused as children.

They are taught to recognise the early warning signals that they are about to carry out a new attack. Dr John Gordon, the wing therapist, admitted that, though the work at Grendon is known nationally for cutting recidivism, it is "only partially successful".

Most paedophiles are released to hostels that should be well away from their past victims. They are staffed round-the-clock but are not secure.

Graham, 61, another former teacher, became aware of his full propensity for evil when he was told that another sex offender with whom he had shared a cell had kidnapped and murdered a boy aged 10. "The same seeds of that kind were there within me," he said. "I don't say they would germinate. I am not a violent man. But it was a shock within the system."

Graham claims his cries for help were ignored after he served a 21-month sentence for abusing pupils.

He is now subject to a five-year sentence for an attack on a girl aged 13 and for molesting the girl's mother 30 years earlier. He says his wife will stand by him when he leaves prison in two years.

The paedophiles, keen to be seen to be addressing their behaviour, say they "understand' society's backlash against the wickedness of their crimes. But they claim that if they are not given a chance to make a fresh start on release, their ostracism will increase their chances of carrying out more attacks.

"Unless society wants to drop all rapists and paedophiles on an island like some kind of leper colony it has got to realise that we have got to live," Andrew said. "People have got to accept me for who I am, not who I was."

Comments