The Government disclosed yesterday that 47,000 violent and sexual offenders who were considered to represent a potential threat to the public were living in the community.
The release of the figure, which includes 18,513 sex offenders, is the first time ministers have attempted to quantify the number of dangerous people known to be living in the general population.
The Home Office minister Hilary Benn said the 47,000 offenders were being monitored by multi-agency public protection panels set up to minimise the risk to communities when such individuals were released. The Government is hoping that providing such information will encourage the public to take a more rational approach to the risks posed by offenders. Mr Benn said: "Burying our heads in the sand and pretending these offenders do not exist is not an option. Chasing them out of one community and into another is not an intelligent response. We need to know where these people are so we can minimise the risks."
In an effort to reassure communities and encourage wider involvement in the rehabilitation of dangerous offenders, the Government is piloting a scheme to allow members of the public to sit on the protection panels alongside criminal justice professionals.
The move was prompted by concerns arising from the death of Sarah Payne, aged eight, who was murdered in July 2000 by a convicted paedophile, Roy Whiting. Fears were raised that parents were had insufficient information to protect their children from sex offenders.