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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 17:12 GMT
Sex offenders clinic could close
Protest at proposed clinic site in Chertsey, Surrey
Parents formed a protest group at the proposed site
A treatment programme for paedophiles, hailed by the government as the most effective in the country, is facing closure.

The Wolvercote Clinic at Epsom in Surrey has to be out of its current site by the end of April, because the government has sold the land to a developer.

It could mean 24 men who are being treated for sex offences will be released into the community until new premises are found.

Eithne Wallace, the Head of the Probation Service, said contingency plans were being made to deal with this possibility.

It is our belief that this is completely the wrong location to site such a clinic

Silverlands Action Campaign

A review considering the relocation of the clinic is now taking place.

The Wolvercote Clinic was established in its current premises in Epsom in August 1995.

It offers residential assessment and intervention programmes for adult males with allegations of, or convictions for, sexual offences involving children.

The National Probation Service said the site was always intended to be temporary and in May last year, after a search for alternative locations, the old Silverlands Hospital in Chertsey, Surrey was considered the most appropriate.

It met with strong opposition from local people who organised a candlelit vigil to protest about the move.

Wolvercote Clinic
The Wolvercote Unit was a temporary site

The Silverlands Action Campaign wrote to local parents asking for support.

"We are very concerned about the impact of the 7000 children attending the 25 schools within a 2.5 mile radius of Silverlands by the intended move.

It is our belief that this is completely the wrong location to site such a clinic," the campaigners said.

Runnymead Borough Council also expressed its concern to the Home Office over the move.

A review of the decision was ordered and is now taking place but there are concerns that if no decision is made in time the clinic could have to close temporarily.

Eithne Wallace, the Head of the Probation Service, told BBC Radio 4's PM programme that alternative plans were being made to deal with the clinic's clients if closure was necessary.

"We are already making contingency plans. Should one of these men for example come from Wales then between now and then the Wolvercote Clinic staff, the Surrey Police and the Surrey Probation will be talking to their counterparts in the Welsh area - Probation, Police.

Site search

"And we will be making arrangements, if need be, if we cannot continue, in a seamless way with this clinic, we will be making arrangements for the safe return of these offenders through other arrangements."

She said every effort was also being made to consult with local groups around the Silverlands site but other areas would also be considered.

"We have identified nine different stakeholder groups in around that Surrey site.

"We've met with them face to face and we've listened carefully to what they've said to us. We've logged their views and those will be taken in to consideration.

"We've also unleashed a full and comprehensive new site search across the entire Government Properties Estate and in the commercial sector looking for other possible safe, credible sites."

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See also:

12 Dec 01 | England
Paedophiles 'may go underground'
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