Relief as offender removed

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 09:00 19/04/2014

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A high-risk paedophile is to be moved from a Palmerston North suburb after an outpouring of community concern.

The 27-year-old man, whom Corrections and police refused to identify, was convicted of raping a 10-year-old girl in 2006.

He was released from Auckland Prison to a Salvation Army men's hostel in Lockhart Ave, Milson, last week after completing an eight-year sentence.

He is subject to an extended supervision order which allows Corrections to keep tabs on him, including 24-hour GPS monitoring, for the next seven years.

Before he was released from prison, a health assessor pushed for the maximum extended supervision order of 10 years, saying he showed little remorse and had a high risk of reoffending, even after a decade.

Since the offender's move to Milson, the Salvation Army has been contacted by half a dozen worried people.

A flier which identified the man, his offending and his address was distributed to letterboxes in Milson.

The police presence has been increased in the area and officers visited Milson School to advise staff and parents on how to keep children safe. The school's "stranger danger" programme was brought forward a term and some parents expressed fears to teachers about a paedophile living in the neighbourhood, principal Vanessa Pitt said.

"It's always concerning that there's people like that nearby, but I also understand that they need to be placed somewhere and nobody wants them in their community."

"This has raised our awareness a lot and if anything good can come from it, it will be parents being more vigilant about keeping their kids safe."

Corrections Manawatu district manager Garth Newman said a lot of work was done approving addresses where offenders could live, including checking the property, shared driveways and visuals of neighbouring houses.

Other factors included proximity to schools, kindergartens, parks, swimming pools, libraries and other places children visited.

When a community raised concerns about an offender, Corrections would work with them to find a way to address their worries, he said. "Public safety is [our] top priority when placing a child sex offender back in the community."

Following a community meeting this week, Newman said the offender would be moved, but he would not confirm where or when.

Police inspector Brett Calkin said the necessary steps were taken to allay the community's concerns.

"Corrections and police had a number of concerns about his risk of reoffending . . . but [we're] in between a rock and hard place because these people have to be put somewhere." Salvation Army spokesman Jon Hoyle said there were 14 "disadvantaged and marginalised men" at the Milson hostel, but the offender was not using its services.

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Kate Smith, who lives opposite the hostel, said she had moved her 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter from her home because she felt uncomfortable about the man being nearby. She was relieved to know he was being moved.

"I'm all for people to be given a chance to live in society peacefully, not causing others troubles and to find a job, but as far as I'm concerned he doesn't deserve a second chance and can't be integrated into society . . .It's not a case of ‘if' he'll reoffend but ‘when'."

- Manawatu Standard

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