ANGRY residents gathered outside the home of a convicted pervert to protest against him returning to their street when he is freed.
Around 25 residents waved placards and banners outside the home of Bernard Swift in Lancaster Road, Hartlepool, to show he is not welcome back to the area.
Families from the street are campaigning to keep Swift out of the neighbourhood.
Swift, 53, was locked up for four months at Teesside Crown Court in June after the court heard how he got sexual gratification from looking at images of girls as young as eight being abused.
The former primary school governor pleaded guilty to making three indecent pictures on his computer, and possessing a further three sick images.
Swift (pictured left), who was also ordered to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register, was caught after a police raid on his home in September 2008.
Judge Peter Fox told Swift at the time of his sentence: “People with your predilection have to realise they are contributing to the abuse of small children, which is horrendous.”
Last night, the angry residents were allowed to make their protests as officers from Hartlepool Police looked on.
It is understood Swift’s family had been told of the neighbours’ action, and were not in the house at the time of the demonstration.
Tony Mandry, a 49-year-old Lancaster Road resident who has two children and five grandchildren living with him, led the protest.
He said: “I hope it sends out a message that we don’t want the likes of him in the street.
“Nearly every house in this street has either kids or grandkids, and I have never seen any of them play out in their gardens since Swift’s case was reported.”
Neighbour Jennifer Berry, a 42-year-old mum-of-three and grandmother-of-two who works at nearby Dyke House Sports and Technology College, said: “Crimes involving children are horrific.”
Salon boss Jane Moore, a 42-year-old mother-of-two with a nine-month-old grandson, who lives in the street, added: “This is a lovely quiet street where everybody knows everbody and people will struggle to sell their houses - what family wants to move here with a convicted sex offender here?”
Acting Inspector Dave Halliday, of Hartlepool Police, said: “We became aware of some community tension relating to Mr Swift, and that a group of residents planned to protest at the address.
“On behalf of the police, I would like to thank Mr Mandry and the residents for their co-operation.
“They wanted the right to air their views which they did in a peaceful manner.
“We spoke to Mr Mandry before the protest and told him to get the message out that we wanted things to remain peaceful.
“We are aware of what their objectives are, and the demonstration passed off without incident.
“There was no reason for us to interject in any way, shape or form.”
Dyke House ward councillor Linda Shields will meet with residents in coming weeks to see what can be done to prevent the retired storeman from returning to the address.
Coun Shields said: “I do share their concerns.”
It is believed that Swift will be released from prison within the next four weeks, though the Ministry of Justice could not discuss individual cases.