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DORSET ECHO INVESTIGATES: Fears grow over 'hard to trace' sex offenders
Updated 9:25am Monday 10th March 2014 in News
CONCERNS have been raised about how authorities can keep tabs on four sex offenders who are homeless in Dorset.
The offenders, whose identities will not be revealed by the police, are registered as of ‘no fixed abode’ – which a leading figure in child protection says makes them ‘difficult to assess and monitor’.
The police have also revealed that 33 Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs) moved to Dorset in 2013 and three sex offenders are currently missing or wanted, sparking more concern.
Dorset Police have refused to tell the Echo how dangerous any of these sex offenders are because the ‘public interest argument for withholding the information considerably outweighs those in favour of disclosure’.
Sex offenders are managed by the Dorset Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements Management Board (MAPPA) and categorised according to their threat to the public.
MAPPA publishes a report about the number of sex offenders in the county and their ‘level’ – a scale dependant on how much monitoring they need.
Level one offenders need ordinary agency management, level two is where the active involvement of more than one agency is required. Level three is where senior oversight is required to monitor an offender.
We asked the police two questions – the level of the RSOs listed as homeless and the level of the RSOs listed as missing.
But the police say they can’t reveal the level of any of these offenders because ‘it would reveal information to the RSOs which could be used to their advantage’.
They say the offenders would be able to ‘adjust their behaviour to avoid detection’.
They also say that homeless people are a vulnerable group and someone could be identified, either rightly or wrongly, as one of the offenders.
The Echo was prompted to investigate how many sex offenders in the county don’t have a fixed address following the imprisonment of rapist Mark Gillard.
Gillard was convicted in 1998 and was put on the sex offenders’ register, requiring him to tell the police where he is living.
He moved from Southampton to Dorset last year, failing to keep officers informed.
Since August 2012, it has been a legal requirement for sex offenders who are of ‘no fixed abode’ to check in with the police every week.
Registrants must inform the police within three days if they change their address or name or register as homeless.
But chief executive of children’s safety charity Kidscape Claude Knights said sex offenders were ‘at their most volatile and dangerous whey they are living in chaotic and unsettled circumstances’.
She said authorities had a ‘duty of care to potential victims’ to make sure they are keeping track of offenders.
Mrs Knights added: “Registered sex offenders who are of no fixed abode are very difficult to assess and monitor.
“The multi-agency public protection arrangements, which are set in motion when sex offenders are released, depend upon the ability of the different agencies to have regular and sustained contact with those individuals.
“The safety of our communities depends on predators being on the appropriate radars.”
Margaret Morrissey of Parents Outloud said it was ‘scandalous’.
She added: “If there are sex offenders of no fixed abode, how can they be monitored effectively?”
According to the latest MAPPA report, there are 599 sex offenders in Dorset – an increase on the previous year.
Of those, 17 were cautioned for breach of notification requirements in 2012-2013.
Dorset Police say the number of sex offenders moving to Dorset changes all the time.
- ANYONE convicted of a sexual offence after 1997 is on the sex offenders’ register.
Those sentenced to more than 30 months for a sexual offence are placed on the register indefinitely.
Those imprisoned for six months but less than 30 go on the register for 10 years.
Those sentenced to six months or less are on the register for seven years.
Prison for man who sparked police hunt
A SEX offender who sparked a police search when he went missing and turned up in Dorset has been jailed. Mark Gillard failed to comply with notice requirements to tell authorities where he lives, Dorchester Crown Court heard.
Gillard, of no fixed abode, was put on the Sex Offenders’ Register for an indefinite period when he committed rape in 1998.
Since then Gillard, 40, has had to tell police where he is living – something he has failed to do four times. Hampshire Police, the force dealing with the case, refused the Echo’s request for a photo of Gillard because his sentence was less than 12 months.
The court heard that Gillard was evicted from a council flat in Southampton in November for rent arrears he clocked up while in prison for another offence.
In accordance with the law, he had three days to register a new address or tell the police he was homeless, prosecutor Stuart Ellacott said.
But Gillard failed to comply and a warrant for his arrest was issued.
Officers tracked him down on December 9 after he made an appointment with a job centre in Bournemouth, the court was told.
He told them he had moved to Dorset because he thought it would be easier to get work.
In mitigation, Kevin Hill said Gillard, who has 28 convictions for more than 70 offences, wanted to go back to prison because ‘otherwise he is homeless’.
He said the reason Gillard had failed to comply once in 2004 was because he was on bail for other matters and so thought police knew where he was.
On the other occasions – twice in March last year – the law had change and Gillard didn’t know what was required of him, Mr Hill said.
Jailing Gillard for six months for the latest breach, Judge Roger Jarvis said: “It would be plain to you what your obligations are and yet you failed to satisfy those obligations.”
AN investigation into rehabilitation of sex offenders has found that many are being released from prison without treatment.
The National Audit Office has warned that a shortage of places on treatment programmes will result in some prisoners reoffending.
It found that in some prisons, the waiting time for a place on a programme is 14 months.
Jon Brown, NSPCC lead on child sex abuse prevention, said: “If a sex offender is released from prison without having treatment it means they present the same level of risk to children as before they were sentenced.
“Sexual offending can be compulsive. Just locking paedophiles up won’t protect the public, because at some point nearly all of them will be released back into the community.
“Though we cannot completely eliminate risk, a lot can be done to minimise it.
“Sex offenders’ behaviour needs to be tackled on three fronts – punishment, treatment and monitoring on release. Treatment is an integral part of child protection and we weaken our defence if it is left out.”
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