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Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 22:29 GMT 23:29 UK


Church of England welcomes sex offenders

The Church of England says it can play a key reintegration role

The Church of England has described Christian congregations as a place where sex offenders can "mix with a welcoming community", and said they can play a key role in their rehabilitation.

The church's board for social responsibility has published a report called Meeting the Challenge, in response to calls from priests and congregations for guidance on sex offenders.

But, while acknowledging that it could play a pivotal role in the rehabilitation of sex offenders, the Church said its primary concern remains the protection of communities and individuals from the risk posed by offenders.

The report says there must be strict and clear supervision guidelines.

Feeling ostracised and guilty

"Sex offenders need to rebuild their lives and the journey into restoring relationships - with their family, friends and neighbours - is a journey which will be long and hard," said the report.

It also pledged to continue its support for victims of sexual abuse and their families and recognised the need to support the families of perpetrators of sexual crimes.

The report said the families of sex offenders and the abusers themselves can feel ostracised and guilty.

The report was compiled by an experienced probation officer, Julie Flack.

Mrs Flack described it as a starting point for congregations and other groups within the Church to discuss an emotional topic, one in which "responses tend to be unhelpful and unrealistic."

Partnership with faith communities

Tim Newell, governor of Grendon prison in Buckinghamshire, one of the UK's main centres for the therapeutic treatment of sex offenders and lifers, said: "The release of sex offenders from prison is a time of great risk for them and the community to which they return."

He said it was vital criminal justice agencies, prison, probation and police services, as well as community leaders met the challenge posed by these risks.

Mr Newell said the return of sex offenders to communities could be "greatly helped by partnerships with faith communities."

On Thursday, the government issued proposals detailing measures to prevent child abusers working with children - whether in council care, or helping out with the local football team.

Under the proposals, employers and voluntary group organisers could be jailed if they knowingly allow child abusers to work with children.

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