Police may keep track of just two in three sex offenders: Third could see home visits and assessments dropped as forces prioritise the most dangerous criminals
- Up to 16,000 paedophiles and rapists will no longer receive home visits
- Chief Constable Simon Bailey suggested low risk offenders should be let off with a caution
- Norfolk Police chief admitted forces were struggling after the number of child abuse reports
Almost a third of sex offenders could see their police supervision and risk assessments dropped under a plan to prioritise the most dangerous criminals, police chiefs announced last night.
Up to 16,000 paedophiles and rapists deemed to pose the lowest risk who have not reoffended for three years will no longer receive home visits by police who are battling to keep tabs on soaring numbers of sex offenders in the UK.
Criminals will still have to present themselves to a police station every year to notify their address and personal circumstances, but police will scale back the number of checks and no longer do an annual risk assessment to determine if they could reoffend.
The move which has outraged campaigners comes just months after the lead on child protection at the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) said paedophiles who view indecent images should not be prosecuted unless they pose a physical threat to children.
Up to 16,000 paedophiles and rapists deemed to pose the lowest risk who have not reoffended for three years will no longer receive home visits by police
Chief Constable Simon Bailey suggested low risk offenders should be let off with a caution or offered rehabilitation and counselling so officers could focus on the worst abusers as he said forces overwhelmed by reports of child sexual abuse had reached a ‘saturation point’.
The Norfolk Police chief admitted in February forces were struggling after the number of child abuse reports rocketed by 80 per cent in the last three years, leading to police making 400 arrests a month over child pornography and 70,000 child abuse investigations a year.
Yesterday NPCC’s Lead for Management of Sexual and Violent Offenders, Deputy Chief Constable Michelle Skeer, said police needed to prioritise resources on those at the highest risk of committing further offences as the number of criminals on the Sex Offenders Register continues to rise by around 3,500 every year.
She said officers needed to take a more ‘tailored approach’ to managing registered sex offenders based on ‘personalised risk management plans’ and said ‘success will no longer be measured solely by the completion of home visits’.
But critics warned relaxing the monitoring of offenders could put victims at risk.
The move which has outraged campaigners comes just months after the lead on child protection at the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) said paedophiles who view indecent images should not be prosecuted unless they pose a physical threat to children
Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, said: ‘If police had the proper resources this would not be happening and they wouldn’t have to prioritise at the expense of relaxing the monitoring of lower risk offenders which is something we are very concerned about.
‘We have been assured that they will not take their eye off the ball and serious offenders will remain very much on the police radar.
‘But any sex offender who commits a crime poses a risk and this could still put victims at risk.
‘It is a matter of great regret, we should be increasing our protection to the most vulnerable in society, our children, not scaling it back in this way.’
Jim Gamble, the former chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre said: ‘I am deeply surprised at this step they have taken and ultimately I cannot see any evidence that our risk assessment processes have developed to such a stage where we can be confident that home visits are not necessary and we can be confident that we are still doing everything we can to protect children, vulnerable young people and adults.’
Currently the relaxation of monitoring will only apply to a few hundred offenders as forces gradually introduce the plan called ‘reactive management’ where low risk criminals will no longer receive home visits.
But police chiefs said up to 16,000 offenders who have not reoffended and are consistently assessed as low risk for at least three years will be considered for ‘reactive management’ in the future – which amounts to 30 per cent of all registered sex offenders.
Deputy Chief Constable Michelle Skeer said criminals would still receive some monitoring and any intelligence to suggest they are a danger would trigger a review of their management by police.
She said: ‘The UK has some of the toughest powers in the world to manage registered sex offenders with low levels of reoffending.
‘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.
‘There are also a wide range of factors that impact on the likelihood of an individual reoffending.
‘This means we need to take a tailored approach rather than following a one-size-fits-all model.’
There are currently over 52,000 registered sex offenders in England and Wales compared to 30,416 in 2006, with the number growing around seven per cent every year.
The latest available statistics show approximately two per cent of registered sex offenders are assessed as very high risk, 18 per cent high risk and 30 per cent are deemed medium risk.
The worst offenders receive monthly visits from police and the lower risk used to receive annual home visits, but these will now be dropped.
An NSPCC spokesman: ‘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.’