There are warnings a “dangerous message” is being sent by failing to take tougher action against hundreds of sex offenders who fail to notify police of their whereabouts.
Scottish Government statistics show between 2010 and 2015 there were 830 incidents of registered sex offenders not telling the police about a change of address or giving a required annual notification.
There needs to be tougher consequences for those who are flouting these rulesMargaret Mitchell
A total of 259 of the breaches led to the offenders being jailed, while 256 were fined, 88 were given a community sentence and 227 received sentences classified as “other”.
The figures show 29 sex offenders since 2010-11 have left their usual home address or the UK entirely without notifying police.
The Scottish Conservatives said the sentences for sex offenders breaking the rules on notifications needed to be tougher. The party called on police to publish the names of sex offenders who fail to update authorities on their location.
Scottish Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell said: “This would be a powerful deterrent as well as helping ensure that the public are protected.
“Sex offenders are given clear instructions about the need to notify the police of their whereabouts but these figures show that hundreds of them are simply ignoring these requirements.
“When these individuals still pose a threat, it is vital that we know exactly where they are so they cannot go on to commit further offences.”
The information was published following a parliamentary question by Mrs Mitchell, which was answered by justice secretary Michael Matheson.
The statistics show that in 2014-15, a total of 193 people on the sex offenders register were convicted of failing to notify the authorities of their whereabouts.
While 54 were jailed, 20 were given a community sentence and 69 were fined. Some 50 people received sentences classified as “other”.
Mrs Mitchell added: “With many of them not even receiving custodial sentences for these breaches, we are sending out a dangerous message that we are willing to let many of them away with a fine or a slap on the wrist.
“There needs to be tougher consequences for those who are flouting these rules. These are often dangerous and predatory individuals, and we cannot jeopardise public safety by allowing them to disappear.”
Sex offenders are managed under Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) which bring together the police, local authorities, the Scottish Prison Service and health boards. The system is used to establish arrangements which assess and manage the risk posed by each registered offender.
These can include regular police visits and interviews, surveillance of those considered high-risk and recalling offenders who breach their release conditions.
The Scottish Government is also currently considering a radical extension to the number of all types of offenders who are electronically tagged. Under the proposals, GPS tracking will be used for the first time to monitor certain offenders’ movements.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The monitoring of sex offenders is tougher than ever before, with greater police powers and a range of measures for high risk offenders – such as surveillance, electronic tagging, curfews, and restrictions on where they can go or who they can contact.
“The independent MAPPA thematic report published last year provides assurance that monitoring in Scotland is effective and makes a critical contribution to keeping people and communities safe.”
He added: “Sex Offender Notification Requirements are robustly policed so that those who breach their terms are identified at the earliest opportunity, arrested immediately and can face jail terms of up to five years.”