Convicted Sex Offenders ‘Missing’

Police forces across the UK have lost track of the whereabouts of 322 convicted sex offenders, a newspaper has reported. Using the Freedom of Information Act, the News of the World asked all 50 forces in England and Wales how many sex offenders are missing. They are required to inform police and probation officers of their addresses.

{mosimage}The Home Office said the sex offenders’ register was a “powerful operational tool” which had a 97% compliance rate.

The Metropolitan Police said 88 offenders from London were missing, the News of the World found. Its investigation also revealed West Midlands Police had lost 25 sex offenders and Greater Manchester 18.

Released sex offenders are supposed to be monitored by officials working under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements.

But according to the News of the World, registered sex offenders have used a loophole in the system allowing them to register vague addresses in order to disappear.

Michelle Elliott, founder and director of the child protection charity Kidscape, called it “unacceptable” that registered sex offenders could go missing. Last year, one paedophile who breached register conditions was allowed to give his address as “woods” after moving from “a tent near Guildford leisure centre”, the paper claimed.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis told the News of the World: “Yet again we see a serious failure of government criminal justice databases to do their job.”

According to the newspaper, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Durham and Norfolk Police said they had no missing sex offenders in their areas. Two police forces in Wales – Dyfed Powys and Gwent – did not provide a figure, it reported. All the police forces refused to give details about the sex offenders or how long they had been missing.

The Home Office said the day-to-day management of the sex offenders’ register was “rightly a matter for the police and probation services”.

“Where an offender appears in breach of their notification requirements the police will update the police national computer and the sex offenders register to ensure that they are traced and dealt with appropriately,” it said. “The sex offenders register is a powerful operational tool for managing sex offenders in the community, with a compliance rate of 97% for those subject to its requirements. In the UK we have one of the most advanced systems in the world for monitoring and managing dangerous offenders.”

The story will heap more pressure on Home Secretary John Reid, who is already under fire because his department failed to record the details of thousands of British criminals convicted abroad and also failed to enforce travel bans on 147 drug traffickers.