Police relax monitoring of sex offenders to focus on high-risk criminals
Police forces have dropped measures designed to stop convicted sex criminals reoffending, the National Police Chiefs’ Council has said, in a bid to focus more on those who present a greater risk.
The new approach will see some low-risk offenders no longer being subject to annual home visits or having the risks they pose reassessed as thoroughly as before.
Rapists may be included in the looser regime, as may those convicted while teenagers who are now adults with stable, law-abiding lives.
Michelle Skeer, the national police lead for managing sexual offenders, said hundreds may no longer be subject to proactive measures, previously deemed necessary to protect the public. That number may grow and police realise it may be controversial. “It is very highly emotive for members of the public,” Skeer said.
Police deny the move is to do with a lack of money and say it will allow them to concentrate on those who pose the greatest risk: “Have we done these changes because we want to save money and we want to cut resources? No. It’s about building on the improvements we have made.”
Of 52,000 people on the sex offender register, 2% are high-risk, and a third, around 16,000, are assessed as low-risk.
To be considered for the new, less stringent regime, low-risk sex offenders must have not committed any offence for three years, have no civil orders against them and there must be no intelligence that they may offend. Their chances of having conditions relaxed will improve if they are judged to have stable lives, which will include having a job, a long-term address or a long-term relationship .
If those factors are met then proactive checks will be dropped and they will have to self-report annually where they live as well as any travel plans.
Skeer said the sex offender register worked well. Just 0.13% – 69 people – of the 52,000 people on it committed a serious offence last year, and 1,500 people committed a breach of their notification requirements.
Skeer, who is deputy chief constable of the Cumbria force, said the number of people on the sex offender register grew by 7% a year.
She said: “With the numbers of registered sex offenders rising year on year, these changes will enable us to more actively manage those offenders who pose the greatest risk to the public while providing a proportionate approach to those who are consistently assessed to be at low risk of reoffending.
“It is important to remember that people will be on the sex offenders register for a range of crimes – it could be from downloading indecent images to contact offending.”
A spokesperson for the NSPCC said: “Police are having to manage a growing number of registered sex offenders with ever tighter restraints on their time, resources, and capacity.
“While a bespoke risk assessment is a good development this cannot be at the expense of close supervision of those who have harmed children in the most despicable way.
“If police are to keep children safe they need to be effectively resourced so they can monitor offenders and work with the community to prevent abuse.”
The issue of money is one preoccupying police chiefs. The chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council warned the government that police needed more money to avoid 4,000 more officers and staff being cut by 2020.
Sara Thornton said the recent spate of terror attacks since March meant specialist counter-terrorism detectives were having to be supplemented by detectives from other specialisms.
Police officers were suffering stress from cancelled rest days and working overtime. Thornton said: “Look at what’s happened over the last four months … extraordinarily challenging times … We’re just pointing out the facts to government.”
The Conservative government has cut police funding and numbers while insisting they have the resources to cut crime and keep the country safe.