The proposed measures, announced yesterday by Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, are expected to include a ban on paedophiles working with youngsters. They will be outlined in a forthcoming consultation paper and may be included in a Crime Bill in the autumn. Mr Howard is known to be in favour of tougher restrictions on sex offenders.
The police have been urging the Government to set up a new system to monitor abusers more closely after a series of cases involving convicted paedophiles who had changed address and secretly started to molest youngsters. They have also been given council houses next to schools and found employment working with children. The police argue that if they were kept informed of the whereabouts of sex offenders they could prevent many offences.
A national register would probably be controlled by the police and held on a central computer, but local authorities would be allowed supervised access. At present the National Criminal Intelligence Service holds a list of about 4,500 convicted or suspected paedophiles. In 1994 274 people were convicted or cautioned for gross indecency with a child, although this does not include child rape. In the same year 109 people were found guilty of unlawful sex with girls aged under 13.
The proposals are expected to include the introduction of two new sentences which would force convicted child molesters to tell police if they moved house - a "residency order" - and which would stop them working with children - a "child protection order".
Mr Howard, addressing the National Probation Conference in Coventry yesterday, said: "The Government believe there is a strong case for strengthening the arrangements for supervising convicted sex offenders following their release from custody."
The police argue that the changes could help to prevent murders of children such Rosie Palmer, aged three, in Hartlepool, Cleveland, who was killed in July 1994 by a man living a few doors away who had been involved in previous incidents of child molestation which were not reported.
Chief Superintendent Brian MacKenzie, President of the Police Superintendents' Association, said: "The rights of children should come before those of convicted paedophiles."
Mary Honeyball, general secretary of the Association of Chief Officers of Probation, added: "A register could give some added protection given that sex offenders are extremely prolific in their offending."
nA judge jailed a sex molester for 27 years after telling him he wanted to protect Britain's children, including those not yet born. The sentence is one of the longest imposed for offences which do not carry a life term. A charity worker, Raymond Hodgson, 43, carried out a catalogue of sex abuse on nine young girls. Police caught him after he had abused four children but he escaped by locking officers in his house.