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Wednesday, July 14, 1999 Published at 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK


Jail paedophile flats ready for occupation

Nottingham Prison will be the site of the new serious offender scheme

Preparations for Nottingham Prison to house the first unit for notorious ex-offenders deemed to be a high risk to the community have been completed.

The Prison Service has confirmed that building work for two flats at the prison has finished.

It is also thought that prison officers have completed a two-week training course to prepare them for receiving the first residents.

And a draft tenancy agreement is reported to have been sent to ministers.

The first resident is likely to be paedophile Lennie Smith, who has just been released after serving a 10-year sentence for a series of sex attacks on a young boy.

The Prison Service says only a few ex-offenders fall into the category covered by the flats.

[ image: Jason Swift is thought to have been killed by a paedophile gang]
Jason Swift is thought to have been killed by a paedophile gang
The initiative, which has caused mass public protests in Nottingham, follows outcry over the release of notorious paedophiles such as Robert Oliver.

Smith is said to be a member of a London paedophile gang which included Oliver and which is alleged to have killed at least three children, including 14-year-old Jason Swift.

Officials tried to ensure Oliver was housed in secure accommodation so they would know his location.

But mass protests followed after members of the public learnt he was in their area.

Experts warn that this kind of reaction could drive dangerous ex-offenders underground, making it more difficult to protect the public from them.

Internet restrictions

Nottingham is expected to take only two to three residents, all of whom will have to sign tenancy agreements.

These may include stipulations over access to pornography and the Internet, curfews, restrictions on places they can go to outside the prison and rules about visitors.

Residents will not be allowed to have visitors who are paedophiles, under 18 or ex-offenders. All visitors will be subject to police checks.

If they breach the agreement, they could be re-imprisoned.

Constant monitoring

The Prison Service says it does not believe the tenancy agreements will be broken since the jail scheme will offer more protection to the residents than they would otherwise receive in the community.

When the residents leave the prison walls, they will be constantly monitored by uniformed and/or plain-clothes officers and tagging may be considered.

The level of monitoring, to be carried out by more than one officer, will depend on how much of a risk they are deemed to represent to the public.

Residents will have to give notice before they go out.

The Prison Service does not anticipate them leaving the prison often because of fears for their own safety.

They are not expected to be allowed to associate with each other.

Personality disorder

The reason Nottingham was chosen for the scheme is that it was deemed to offer an effective, coordinated probation, police and prison service suitable for this level of offender.

Nottingham Police and probation service are lobbying the government for extra resources to cover the scheme, which will be reviewed every three months.

It is thought to be possibly a stop-gap measure to deal with concerns over serious offenders who are still deemed a high risk to the community after they have completed their sentences.

Home Secretary Jack Straw has announced plans to introduce indeterminate, reviewable sentences for high risk offenders with personality disorders.

He says these could ensure that offenders were kept in prison as long as they were thought to be a risk to the public.

A consultation paper on the issue is to be published on Monday.

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