July 2004

OAPs object to paedophile living next door

Reginald Jarrett, dubbed Medway’s most persistent sex offender, was due to have moved into the sheltered accommodation when freed from his latest prison sentence.

But the decision sparked outrage among other pensioners in the accommodation, many of whom are regularly visited by their grandchildren.

Jarrett, 76, was jailed in April for two-and-a-half years for breaching a sex offenders’ order, imposed in 1999.

He stood trial at Maidstone Crown Court and despite the 30-month sentence, has only served three months of it because of the time he spent in police custody awaiting trial. He has been described by Det Con Bernie Flintoff, who led the case when Jarrett was jailed, as “Medway’s most persistent sex offender” and a “menace”.

Det Sgt Kevin Dyer, who was also involved in the case to bring Jarrett to trial, said after he was sentenced: “Someone like Jarrett will come out as a very high risk.”

Yet despite these warnings, officials were planning to re-home Jarrett in a sheltered accommodation scheme which is near a junior school, infant school, playground, park, leisure centre, community centre and shopping precinct.

The repeat offender would have had people aged 62 to 94 as neighbours in the Medway Council-owned accommodation.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said: “We don’t want him here. We were frightened that if people knew he was here, they would vandalise the flats and terrorise us.

“He is well known to people and has a long history of sex offences we have found out about and it is ludicrous to think about putting him here.

“We worried that our grandchildren wouldn’t be safe. There are also a lot of children living in the road, others who walk past for school and he would just be able to go up to them. We’re relieved that he isn’t coming here now but have a petition ready in case anything changes.”

The jail sentence was imposed after Jarrett breached the sex offenders’ order for the third time since it was imposed in 1999. He had previously been jailed for a year in March 2002 after breaching the order.

The order, which Jarrett described as “silly” to police ahead of the trial, means he must not approach children or talk to them. But despite this, he continued to engage in conversation with them and offer them sweets.

He even gave one of the children gifts and a ride on his scooter. He invited others into his home in The Mailyns, Gillingham. Residents in that road sent a petition to Medway Council and now he cannot return to this address. Alternative housing was being looked at and the Gillingham sheltered housing was one of the options.

Rainham ward councillor John Magee said: “We had a petition from the people living in The Mailyns and it was discussed by councillors. He is a danger.”

The council discussed it at the health and services overview scrutiny committee meeting at the Civic Centre, Strood, on Tuesday evening. But the details were confidential and not discussed in front of the press or public.

Cllr Magee’s colleague in Rainham, Paul Foster said: “Nobody wants him to live near them and it’s a case of not on my doorstep or anyone else’s either.

“It’s a difficult conundrum and I have sympathy with the people who are facing having him live near them.

“We are elected by the local people and we will continue to campaign to make sure he is not housed in our area near to schools and areas where there are lots of children.”

Gillingham MP Paul Clark spoke to residents concerned about Jarrett’s housing at a street stall in his constituency on Saturday.

He said: “People were understandably worried about him being housed there.

“Proper monitoring needs to be in place to make sure he does not have any opportunity to re-offend.”

A police spokesman said: “The decision to house sex offenders takes into consideration various factors. The most important is the risk to children.

“When sex offenders are released from prison they are released back into the community and it is the responsibility of the combined local authorities to provide accommodation.

“Managing sex offenders in the community is not new and the police, through Multi Agency Public Protection Panels, devise risk-management strategies for every known high-risk offender. Each case is carefully considered on its particular facts and is part of an overall strategy for managing the risk posed by an offender. While we share the media’s interest in community safety, general notification of an individual’s whereabouts can cause a number of problems that decrease rather then increase public safety.

“Past cases have illustrated the potential for vigilante action, panic and unwarranted violence. A case of mistaken identity could have devastating consequences.

“An offender who is forced out of a community could disappear, severing contact with the police and probation services. Without monitoring or supervision, no stable address and no clue to his behaviour, the likelihood of re-offending is far greater than with someone closely monitored by the authorities.”