Police Article For Tuesday 22nd February 2011
The management of sex offenders in the community is a thorny subject and a recent decision of the Supreme Court to allow sex offenders the right to appeal against a lifetime requirement to remain on the Sex Offenders Register has prompted me to give you an insight into an area of policing which is not well understood.
I have gone into some detail, but I hope you will excuse me for this as I believe it demonstrates the lengths we go to in protecting the public and will help to inform the debate.
Managing sex offenders is a specialist role entrusted to our Public Protection Officers who are detectives working within the Protecting Vulnerable People’s Unit.
The role was created following the introduction in 2003 of The Sexual Offences Act which required persons convicted of sexual offences to be registered and monitored.
The offences requiring registration range from indecent exposure through to rape.
The length of time that a person can be required to be on the register ranges from two years for those who receive a caution through to an indefinite period for anyone who is sentenced to 30 months or more imprisonment.
Anyone required to go on the register has three days to present themselves at a prescribed police station which in North Yorkshire means Scarborough, York, Northallerton, Harrogate or Skipton.
They must give details of their address and must also inform us whenever they leave the address to go elsewhere in the UK for seven or more days, or if they go abroad for three or more days.
When we receive such a notification we inform Police in the area they are visiting.
Finally, anyone on the register must visit their prescribed police station at least once a year to confirm that the details have not changed.
Failure to register or comply with these requirements is an offence and leads to arrest and a further appearance at court.
Having received notification that someone has been required to register, our Public Protection Officers visit the offender at his or her home (the overwhelming majority of offenders are male).
These visits take place within days of the conviction or sentence and their purpose is to seek intelligence about the individual and the environment in which he lives.
This includes details such as the proximity of families with children or schools and also the personal circumstances of the offender such as whether he is in a stable relationship or has other family support.
This intelligence forms the basis of a risk assessment which will then determine how often the offender is visited and if necessary a referral is made to a multi-agency panel which will look at what other measures are required to manage the risks identified.
Referrals are also made to other agencies such as: Child or Adult Safeguarding, Housing, mental health, and interventions agencies (drug or alcohol).
They will take an active part in the management and risk assessment of the offenders and other people involved and there will be continued liaison between those concerned to ensure that children and the public generally are protected.
One of the other measures available is a Sexual Offender Prevention Order which can put restrictions on the offender such as a ban on visiting certain locations, a ban on having contact with persons of a certain age or preventing access to computers. Again, if the orders are breached the offender commits an offence and can be arrested and put back before a court.
One of our Public Protection Officers who has been on the unit for over three years states that whilst it was not something she ever envisaged doing when she joined the police she does enjoy the work, in particular the opportunities it gives to work with other agencies such as the Probation Service.
She also believes the system, whilst not ‘foolproof’, is successful in protecting the public from harm in the great majority of cases.