Sex offender numbers show sharp rise

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The Independent Online

The number of registered sex offenders increased by more than 3 per cent to just under 30,000 last year, Home Office figures showed today.

Annual data from the so-called Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements, or Mappa, also showed the number of violent offenders and other sex offenders jumped more than 13 per cent year-on-year to 14,317.

In all, there were 47,653 violent and sex offenders being monitored by Mappa in England and Wales at the end of 2005/06, up nearly 7 per cent on the previous 12 months.

Mappa bring together police, probation, social services and other agencies to dangerous offenders in the community once they are released from jail.

The figures revealed a large jump in the number of registered sex offenders who committed further offences in the year.

There was a 30 per cent leap in the number charged or cautioned for breaching registration requirements, up to nearly 1,300 from just 990 last year.

Of the total of 47,700 Mappa offenders, 12,505 were classed as Level 2 offenders with a "high" or "very high" risk of serious harm - representing just under an 11 per cent rise on last year.

The number described as "Level 3" offenders - the so-called " critical few" who will be subjected to the most intensive supervision and may even be put under police surveillance - fell from 1,478 to 1,278.

Of Level 2 and 3 offenders, there were 61 who were charged with a serious further offence such as murder or rape, 1,540 who breached their licence (up 18 per cent year-on-year) and 104 breached an order, up from 73 in the previous year.

Home Office minister Gerry Sutcliffe said: "Protecting the public is at the heart of the Government's priorities, and ensuring the effective management of the most dangerous offenders is a key part of our agenda.

"The offences committed by the population of offenders covered by the Mappa create intense suffering for victims and great concern for us all.

"Whilst we can never eliminate risk entirely, we are all entitled to expect that everything that can be done is being done to prevent these offenders from re-offending.

"This is the fifth year of Mappa across England and Wales and it is clear from the annual reports published today that a huge amount of skill and commitment is deployed towards protecting the public from serious sexual and violent offenders and the agencies involved are more engaged than ever in tackling the harm caused by these offenders."

It was the first annual report since the system was criticised for its failings in the case of convicted rapist Anthony Rice.

In May this year an inquiry by Chief Inspector of Probation Andrew Bridges highlighted how Rice killed mother-of-one Naomi Bryant just nine months after being freed from a 16-year jail term because officials placed his human rights above protecting the public.

When Rice had been freed, the local Multi-Agency Public Protection Panel was "distracted" by considering Rice's human rights, the report said.

Rice, 49, strangled and stabbed to death Ms Bryant, 40, at her home in Winchester in August last year, only days after they had met.

Ms Bryant's body was discovered by her daughter, who was then aged 14.

Today's increase comes after last year's figures showed an 18 per cent rise.

Totals of registered sex offenders accumulate year-on-year because on conviction many are ordered to stay on the register for life.