Media Attention ‘Could Drive Paedophiles Underground’

Paedophiles could be driven underground if the media continue to publish details of their whereabouts, a police force have warned. Child killer Robert Oliver, 52, had to be escorted from his home in Bishops Lydeard, Somerset, by riot police yesterday following a day-long protest by local residents.

An angry crowd of up to 60 people had gathered to protest outside his home after details of of where he was living were published in The News of the World.

A window and door panel were smashed at the bungalow as Oliver cowered inside – leaving the police with little option but to move him for his own safety.

Oliver is being monitored by Mappa, the multi-agency team set up to manage serious violent and sex offenders after their release from prison. But Avon and Somerset Police said today there was a danger of paedophiles disappearing if they continue to be hounded by the press.

“In this case, at this time, the individual concerned has been co-operating fully with the Mappa process and we are in regular contact with him,” a force spokeswoman said. “However with persistent media attention, there is a very high risk that he could be driven underground.

“As the law stands he is a free man. The public should therefore be reassured because he is voluntarily co-operating fully with the Mappa process, which is more than he is legally obliged to do. The persistent high-profile media interest in this particular case has prevented us from being as open with the public as we might otherwise have been.”

Oliver, who changed his name to Francis Lee, was jailed for 15 years in 1989 for the manslaughter of 14-year-old Jason Swift during a homosexual orgy.

He was freed in 1998 and was living in a bail hostel in Bristol in April this year, but was moved after The News of the World photographed him walking the streets. He was then relocated to a safe house at Avon and Somerset Police’s headquarters, before moving to another hostel in Bridgwater.

Oliver has reportedly been living in a bungalow in Bishops Lydeard since August.

His case has reignited the debate on where paedophiles should be housed after they are released from jail and what right the local community has to know his whereabouts.

But the angry scenes outside Oliver’s home on a council estate could damage protesters’ demands for parents to be informed if paedophiles are living nearby.

The News of the World has led the campaign for the so-called Sarah’s Law, which was launched after eight-year-old Sarah Payne was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting. The paper “named and shamed” scores of people it said were guilty of sex offences against children as part of the campaign. But they stopped the initiative after innocent people were attacked by vigilantes, who had mistaken them for paedophiles.

The Home Office revealed last month that it is considering allowing single mothers to check up on new partners to see if they are sex offenders. Under the plan, checks would be made by police and would have to be supported by reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Michelle Eliott, director of child protection charity Kidscape, said paedophiles should not be housed within local communities and branded police chiefs and politicians “hypocrites” for criticising protesters in Bishops Lydeard.

“The only thing you can do with serial, dangerous, violent paedophiles is to put them in an isolated plot of land, like they do in Holland, where they can be monitored by police, probation and social services. If you’re going to put them in the community you have to tell the community. Local ministers and the head of police in Avon and Somerset should say they’re quite happy having a paedophile living next to them, but then there’s a great deal of hypocrisy surrounding this issue.”

She added that the cases of paedophiles like Craig Sweeney, who sexually assaulted a three-year-old girl after being released from jail, meant people no longer trusted agencies to monitor child sex offenders effectively.

“This isn’t just a knee jerk reaction, it’s based on the evidence of what has happened. If your child was the victim of this guy who was living around the corner, I don’t know how you would contain your rage.”

The National Society for the Prevention of Child Cruelty (NSPCC) said parents had a right to know if dangerous sex offenders – who posed a potential risk to their children – were living in the area.

The charity’s director of public policy, Phillip Noyes, said: “The public should know sex abusers who are living in the community, have been properly risk assessed, appropriately housed and are being supervised and monitored to ensure children are safe.

“The NSPCC believes that Robert Oliver should be considered a risk to children for the rest of his life and that those with a responsibility for protecting children must be properly informed if he is living in their area. It is vital that people do not decide to take the law into their own hands and Robert Oliver is not driven underground.”