Belfast Telegraph

Who lets a paedophile live next to a school?

Another day, another pervert released onto the streets. There are times I feel I've exhausted all suitable expressions of outrage. But the latest case of a notorious paedophile being allowed to live right next to a primary school really does make you wonder if anyone in authority gives a damn.

Every time John 'Yogi' Stevenson glances out the window of his apartment he can feast his eyes on the little kids in the playground at Whiteabbey PS.

If it chills my blood, Lord knows what it does to those parents who unfortunately have to send their children there.

You would think the law was determined to torment the innocent and let only the guilty 'rebuild their lives'.

Stevenson was let out by a system that thinks serving only three-and-a-half of a seven-year sentence is adequate punishment for a litany of sex crimes against girls as young as three.

Three years for molesting three-year-old girls? It might be mathematically tidy, but for most of us it's a sick joke.

Forget about the law protecting the good citizens of Whiteabbey. No one could even be bothered letting Pauline Donaghy know that Stevenson was at large.

Why should they? After all, it was only his attempt to coax her two daughters into his car that led to his arrest.

As she points out now, imagine being out shopping with your kids and running into the pervert who had tried to abduct them. That could have happened to her.

Stevenson is no sad misfit, who hurt no one but himself.

He was a sexual terrorist, a person the police believe was a serial predator — and one cunning enough to avoid capture for many years.

When police raided his home, they found a huge and sickening collection of DVDs, including footage of children being raped. Police believe he had spent more than 15 years prowling the streets, preying on young girls.

This is the sort of citizen they have unleashed on Whiteabbey, where families are oblivious to the menace in their midst.

Parents would be as safe cutting out the photos taken by newspapers of him last week and never forgetting what that face looks like. Just in case ...

He'll be there in the local Tesco, which is where photographers snapped him. He could turn up anywhere in the area ... and it seems that there is nothing the law can do about it. Or seemingly wants to do about it.

Whiteabbey PS headmaster Peter Wright, understandably anxious to reassure parents, says he's discussed the matter with police, who have told him there is no danger to anyone and that the individual is closely supervised.

But the PSNI can hardly tell Mr Wright that, yes, the current system of managing paedophiles in the community puts a strain on police time, personnel and resources and still is no guarantee of security.

As a policing body, they have no choice but to express their confidence about how safe other people's kids are in the neighbourhood of this beast. But I'll bet officers themselves would be none too pleased if their own children were attending Whiteabbey PS.

He was certainly a danger to the two Donaghy girls. And he hasn't been 'cured'.

We are often told the benefits of devolution and having our own elected representatives. And we are constantly being lectured about how security is becoming less of an issue. Well, I'm afraid that the security of children should be paramount for any legislative body and our very own one can make a start by insisting that time means time. If they're queasy about such a law for paramilitaries, then make it for paedophile crimes alone if that makes them feel better.

It's children who are the victims here. They can't go on being victimised by known serial predators who more often than not are shuffled in secret by the police from one Housing Executive property to another.

They don't tend to secrete them in private housing estates, so they shouldn't be smuggling them in to social housing environments, either. And they certainly should not let them set up home right next to a primary school.

The stupidity of the law has been caught out once again by the vigilance of those Press photographers in the Tesco car park.

But what happens the next time? And the next time and the time after that? The time when there is no one about but children and the likes of John 'Yogi' Stevenson?

Belfast Telegraph


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