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Tuesday, September 29, 1998 Published at 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK


Action over prison paedophile rings

The Prison Service is taking action to stop "dangerous paedophile rings" following a new report warning that child sex offenders are contacting children from jail.

Andrew Hosken explains the report's findings
The report by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, entitled Grappling With Smoke, says prisons are a breeding ground for paedophile networks.

It says 242 paedophile rings are currently being investigated in England and Wales, with one or two cases in each local authority area examined at any one time.

In light of the evidence, the Prison Service has said it is considering measures to reduce the risk of sex offenders pursuing their activities in prison.

They are likely to focus on prison visits, letters and use of the telephone, regulated with phone technology that allows prisoners to dial only approved numbers.

The Prison Service's Martin Narey: Never intentionally gave paedophiles access to children in prison
Prison Service Director of Regimes, Martin Narey, earlier said the service had already taken "comprehensive action" to address the problem after being alerted to the danger of children visiting sex offenders last May.

"We only now allow visits from their own children," he said.

"We routinely monitor correspondence and we only allow them to make calls to certain registered numbers."

He admitted, however, that in the past it could have been possible for children to visit paedophiles who were not their parents.

NSPCC's 'great concern'

Tuesday's report said some convicted prisoners were found to be writing to children in Romania, which was of "great concern" to the NSPCC's Senior Policy Advisor, John Griffin.

"I think it's quite clear that the motives were to keep links with these children so that they could start contact again when they came out," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The report also uncovered cases where convicted paedophiles arranged for children to be brought into prison to visit.

"It appears that those children were being previewed so that when the abusers were released from prison they could then go on to abuse those particular children", according to the report's author and senior research fellow in human and health sciences at Huddersfield University, Bernard Gallagher.

He also uncovered instances of prisoners contacting victims in the community trying to put pressure on them and contacting other offenders in the community to try to thwart investigations.

He found paedophile rings were forming in prisons, aided their segregation from other prisoners for their own protection.

Abusers meet in prison

Gloucestershire Chief Constable Tony Butler, who is also spokesman for child protection for the Association of Chief Police Officers, acknowledged the problem.

"We do know that paedophiles will meet in prison and will maintain those contacts outside prison.

"The abuse of children seems to be very much a private, one-to-one affair," he said.

One of the most dangerous developments in recent years has been the use of the Internet as a way for paedophiles to transmit child pornography across the world with relatively little risk.

In the last few months several child pornography networks have been uncovered, mainly in Europe.

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