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Tuesday, 28 April, 1998, 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK
Vigilantes leave paedophiles nowhere to go
Sex offenders could end up going into hiding when they are released from prison
Sex offenders could end up going into hiding when they are released from prison
The threat of vigilante attacks by angry local residents is forcing a growing number of probation hostels to refuse to accept sex offenders, a government watchdog has warned.

At least one in 10 of the 101 probation hostels across the country now refuse to take sex offenders. The problem has worsened since child-killers Robert Oliver and Sidney Cooke were released from jail.

The Chief Inspector of Probation: Graham Smith
Graham Smith: Fears the effect of violence
The Chief Inspector of Probation, Graham Smith, said that protesters risked achieving the exact opposite of their aims.

If the situation continues, he said, there will eventually be nowhere to hold paedophiles under close supervision - increasing the threat they pose to children.

He added: "I fear the damage done to hostels and violence on the streets outside."

But protesters who organised peaceful demonstrations against Cooke remain defiant and say they only want to protect their children.

Heather Smith, a campaign organiser from Somerset, said: "I do not think these people should be allowed to walk in the streets with children.

"A hostel may be good enough for some paedophiles but offenders like Sidney Cooke need 24-hour supervision."

Parents
Parents have protested because of fears over their children's safety
Last week a mob hurled petrol bombs and bricks at a Bristol police station where it was thought Cooke was being held, injuring 46 police officers.

Probation chiefs have also reported a wave of attacks on hostels and sex offenders across the country over the past six months.

The Assistant General Secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, Harry Fletcher, said: "Provision for sex offenders must be increased or huge problems will be stored up for the future.

"Early intervention with this group is the best way of preventing future victims."

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