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Sex Offender’s Register – Minister Wise to Act with Caution

Sex Offender’s Register – Minister Wise to Act with Caution

Date : 4th August 2014

The Minister of Police, Anne Tolley, is wise to act with caution, in limiting the Sex Offender’s Register to child sex offenders, says Rethinking Crime and Punishment spokesperson Kim Workman. He was responding to the news that Ministers had signed off on plans to establish the database.

“The Minister intends to follow the UK model, which has a history we can learn from. It was established in 1997, and over the next ten years, its function changed from being a public protection measure, to becoming punishment in its own right.”

“From the outset, 94% to 97% of eligible sex offenders complied with the requirements of the register, in reporting to the Police, and obeying the conditions. But increasingly, the register was ‘strengthened’ by expanding the range of offences, increasing penalties for non-compliance, and breaching the human rights of convicted sex offenders.”

“At the outset, police cautions were included alongside convictions, as being precursors to registration, even though Police cautions are administered because the crime is minor, and the offender unlikely to do it again. Over the next ten years, the range of offences added to the register included theft, harassment, sending prohibited articles in the post, and burglary with intent to steal.”

“Despite the extremely high rate of compliance, the fine for non-compliance was increased from £1000 to £5000, and the maximum sentence from 1 month to six months. Registrants were required to report in person (rather than as initially required by email or letter), and the time limit for initial registration was reduced from 14 days to 3 days. Sex offenders were ineligible for early release from prison on home detention, and extra powers given to the Police to force entry into a registrant’s home for the purpose of risk assessment.”

“By 2008, there were 30,000 on the register, but no evidence that the register had contributed to public safety. The only tangible benefit, was that it forced closer inter-agency cooperation between the Police and Probation. The function of the register had effectively shifted from the protection of children, to a means of further punishing offenders following their release from prison. If those resources had been shifted into exposing the 90% of child sex offenders who are currently unknown to the Police, it could have resulted in a significant reduction in child sex crime.”

“One of the unfortunate aspects of the register, is that it can promote a false sense of public security – people believe that if people are not on the register, they are safe. The harsh reality is that their child is at greater risk from people they or their family know, rather than some stranger who is on the register.”

“Limiting the register to child sex offenders is a wise move. It should be evaluated carefully over a 2 -3 year period, to establish whether it has been effective in protecting children from sex crime. If there is no evidence for its effectiveness, then it should be abandoned, and the resources transferred into areas of primary prevention.”


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