Most sex offenders who ask to be taken off register approved by police

3 January 2020, 06:03

Offenders on the register must comply with strict notification guidelines
Offenders on the register must comply with strict notification guidelines. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The majority of convicted sex offenders who apply to be taken off the official register are being allowed to by police, new figures show.

A freedom of information request has shown nearly three-quarters of applications over a three-year period in England and Wales were approved.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request by the Daily Mail newspaper, shows figures from 36 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales.

Shockingly only 363 of 1,288 applications by offenders to be taken off the register were refused in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

But Chief Constable Michelle Skeer, of the National Police Chiefs' Council, said the data represents a small number of registered sex offenders managed in the community.

According to the Daily Mail, one force had a near 100% approval rate, with only one of the 39 applications made to Merseyside Police refused.

Jim Gamble, the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, said victims would be feeling "deeply aggrieved."

In response to the newspaper, the force said applications were most likely to come from those who had been fully compliant with their registration requirements.

When a person is convicted or cautioned in relation to a sexual offence, they are added to the sex offenders register, which requires them to notify police of their name, date of birth and home address.

Offenders must also notify officers of any intended travel and, at least once a year, confirm that their details are still correct by visiting a police station.

To be considered for removal from the list, applicants must fill out a two-page self-assessment form about their risk of re-offending.

When considering an application for removal, officers look at a number of factors, including the seriousness of the offence, how long ago it was committed, the difference in age between the perpetrator and victim and any subsequent convictions.

According to the Home Office, in 2018/19 there were 330 successful applications to be removed from the sex offenders' register.

Ms Skeer, lead for the management of sexual offenders and violent offenders, said: "Managing the potential risk posed by registered sexual offenders within the community is a complex area of work for police.

"As of March 2019 there were 60,294 registered sexual offenders managed in the community.

"The numbers obtained through the Freedom of Information request represent less than two per cent of that total being removed from their notification requirements.

"Applications for registered sexual offenders to be removed from their notification requirements are the subject of careful scrutiny by police.

"Each application is thoroughly assessed and decided upon by a senior officer of Detective Superintendent rank working to the Home Office's legislative framework and guidance.

"UK policing has some of the most advanced and stringent tools in the world to manage registered sex offenders and I am confident that forces across the country are, each day, effectively managing risk posed to the public by such individuals."

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "The UK has some of the toughest powers in the world to deal with sex offenders and the Government is committed to keeping the public safe.

"The Government is committed to making sure violent and sexual offenders spend longer behind bars, which is why it is recruiting 20,000 more police offices and creating extra prison places.

"The Home Office has provided guidance to police forces to bolster the expertise of senior police officers, who decide whether someone is suitable to be removed from the sex offenders' register."