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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 September, 2004, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Head-to-Head: Paedophile hostels
Residents protest at Silverlands in Surrey
Residents protest against the Wolvercote Clinic in Surrey
The UK's only residential treatment centre for paedophiles closed in 2002 after the community blocked its relocation from Epsom, Surrey, to the Silverlands site, near Chertsey.

Now the government has announced proposals to open a number of these centres on the back of research showing they cut reoffending rates.

BBC News Online spoke to the former director of the Wolvercote Clinic, Donald Findlater - also a member of the Lucy Faithfull Foundation - and Roger Habgood - leader of Runnymede Council, which opposed the clinic's move.


What we know is that some sex offenders have far bigger personal and psychological problems than others.

The Wolvercote Clinic demonstrated that it was able to do more effective work with those men with much more significant psychological problems.

We had more treatment hours and the treatment was much more intensive. It's very difficult to achieve that in a prison setting.

Every working day the men would be in a three-hour group session, they'd do homework, have individual treatment.

I believe in the two years since we shut down more people would have been abused because we didn't exist
Donald Findlater

We had 24-hour staffing, alarms on doors and windows.

We had a level of perimeter security but the Wolvercote Clinic didn't rely on locks, bolts, and bars to manage the population.

No local child or adult was offended against by the men at the Wolvercote Clinic - we selected well and we managed our population well.

If those men had not been at the Wolvercote Clinic, they wouldn't have been in prison or a secure hospital... they would have been free on the street.

If Wolvercote was operating today the Surrey community's biggest risk would be from the 300-350 sex offenders known in the community already, or the tens or hundreds of offenders in the local community not yet known to police.

We have an image of strange looking, middle-aged men in deranged states but the vast majority of sex offenders are not at all like that. They appear to be responsible, respectable people.

The biggest risk to children are people they know and trust in their lives and in their communities.

I believe in the two years since we shut down more people would have been abused because we didn't exist.


The facility is required - I've no doubt about it and no problem with the foundation and the work they do but I'm opposed to the centres being put in locations that are inappropriate.

The Silverlands site was completely inappropriate .

When you go there you've got a school less than 400 yards away, you've got a nursery 400 yards away and a hospital housing people who have been abused as children and a children's ward.

You're never going to win friends with this, but allay most of the fears before you start putting up security fences
Roger Habgood

The biggest split-site secondary school is no more than half to three-quarters of a mile away and an all-girls school is less than a mile away.

The government needs to look at locations, carry out analysis and properly get to know the local community.

You're never going to win friends with this, but allay most of the fears before you start putting up security fences.

On the council, we asked ourselves 'Are we being nimby about this? We'll see, if the government said to us you will have [a centre] what would we want to do and where would we want to put it.'

We were suggesting things like 'Is it feasible to run one off the back of a prison?'

We looked at ministry sites in Runnymede and thought: 'Go and locate it in the furthest part from the schools.'

The other thing is an economical issue. We've got 99% employment and if you're trying to locate in Runnymede you need all the staff, security, cleaners etc in place.

You've got to go through all of that first, and that work was not done when they tried first to locate the centre with us.

Wolvercote's unique approach
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