Police get powers to identify child sex offenders

Police are to have new powers to warn local communities about sex offenders in their area, the Home Office said yesterday. But their scope will be limited and a United States-style "Megan's Law", under which the whereabouts of offenders are widely publicised, is ruled out for fear of vigilante action.

From 1 September, offenders convicted of or cautioned for a range of sexual offenders will have to register their addresses in the National Sex Offenders Register proposed by the previous government and tell the police when they change their name or move home.

Guidelines published yesterday on police use of the information make it clear that ministers are opposed to forces automatically giving local residents the names and addresses of convicted offenders who move into their area on release from prison. Instead, forces will be expected to individually assess the seriousness of the risk posed by offenders, and whether naming them will displace offending somewhere else or drive offenders "underground" where they cannot be monitored by local agencies.

Alun Michael, the Home Office minister, said: "I believe the guidelines strike the right balance between keeping a check on where sex offenders, in particular paedophiles, are living, while at the same time allowing them the chance to mend their ways in the community."

But the guidelines have their limitations and are likely to be followed up with new measures for post-release supervision in the Government's planned Crime and Disorder Bill in the autumn. The Bill is expected to provide for supervision of sex offenders by probation officers for up to 10 years.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said: "It will take 10 years for the register to be up and running properly. The real issue is the degree of treatment and control."

Home Office research indicates that there are 110,000 men in England and Wales who have committed a serious offence against a child but the register will not be retrospective. Mr Michael estimated that the register would contain 6,000 names by the end of this year and that 3,500 names would be added in each subsequent year. He also said that indeterminate or reviewable sentences could be added to the range of measures for tackling sex offenders.

Under the measures announced yesterday - which will cover convicted rapists as well as child sex offenders - police will be able to pass on details to employers, voluntary organisations and members of the public.

Tony Butler, Chief Constable of Gloucestershire and the crime committee spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the recent High Court ruling which decided that North Wales Police were right to alert the public to two paedophiles who had moved into the area emphasised the need for a "case-by-case" approach.

"Any action must be taken in such a way as to add to protection rather than endangering it," he said. The guidance states that "disclosure to a member of the general public will very much be the exception to the rule". There can be no guarantee, however, that officially disclosed information will not leak to a wider audience.

Potential examples cited by the guidance include disclosure to a local education authority, headteacher, play-group leader or those running youth groups.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said the guidance laid "robust foundations for a national strategy to protect children from paedophiles".

Dealing with another highly controversial area, the guidance suggests that where disclosure would render an offender homeless this might increase the risk to the public.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions