Britain's only secure residential centre for the treatment of sex offenders was closed yesterday amid disagreement on where a new clinic should be sited.
The nine paedophiles at the government-funded Wolvercote clinic, at Horton Hospital in Epsom, Surrey, have been released into the community to complete their treatment. The Home Office has set up a review to decide how many residential centres are needed and where they should be built.
Plans to relocate Wolvercote clinic 12 miles away to a former nursing home in Lyne, near Chertsey, were torn up after a dispute over the consultation process and opposition from neighbours. Residents reacted with fury when they discovered the plans for the clinic to move to Silverlands Hospital, while the National Probation Service said it accepted the consultation process was not handled correctly.
The 25-bed Wolvercote clinic, set up in 1995 by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a child protection charity, offered residential treatment programmes for paedophiles for up to 12 months at a time. It was the only centre of its kind in Europe. Offenders were taught to acknowledge their sexual responses to children and to take control of their behaviour. The voluntary programme has been successful in reducing reoffending rates among convicted paedophiles.
The current site, a derelict psychiatric hospital, was sold to property developers seven years ago and the lease has now run out.
In response to the controversy surrounding the relocation of the clinic, a review was set up involving the Home Office, the Probation Service, police and the Department of Health, to consider the national provision of residential treatment for sex offenders. The study is due to be completed this autumn. There are about 5,000 convicted sex offenders receiving treatment in the community.