Number of sex offenders hits six-year high

Two arrests have been made. Picture: Ian Georgeson/TSPL
Two arrests have been made. Picture: Ian Georgeson/TSPL
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THE number of high-risk convicted sexual or violent criminals living in Scottish communities has passed 4,000, as it continues to grow year on year.

New police figures show 4,032 people with histories of extreme violence or sexual offending were being managed through Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (Mappa) in 2012-13 – following a second successive annual rise.

There are now 3,314 registered sex offenders living in Scotland, up for a fifth successive year. Victim support groups described the figures as “worrying”.

Sixty-eight people being managed through Mappa committed a further violent or sexual crime, while 91 were returned to custody after breaching the terms of their licence, according to the Scottish Policing Performance Framework Annual Report, 2012-13. A first annual Care Inspectorate report, released in August, found 45 offenders released on licence or under supervision were involved in serious incidents in the same year, with ten people murdered as a result.

Eileen Maitland, of Rape Crisis Scotland, said: “Whatever the reasons underlying these figures, a rising number of sex offenders in the community has to be something that raises concern. However effective the measures to deal with such offenders and to monitor their activities, it is vital that public safety lies at the heart of any plan or programme, and can be guaranteed.”

A spokesman for Victim Support Scotland added: “It’s worrying that there are so many people that fall into these categories – sex offenders and people committing such serious offences that they have to be monitored. However, overall the statistics are a huge encouragement.”

The figures, which cover the 12 months leading up to the creation of Police Scotland, reinforced previous statistics of falling crime and high police numbers. But they also included survey results which showed 50 per cent of people were confident that police would prevent crime, with 60 per cent believing they would catch criminals.

Margaret Mitchell MSP, justice spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “Instead of concentrating on emptying prisons, these statistics should act as a wake-up call to reverse the ill-judged and deeply damaging proposals to close sheriff courts and police station counters. Such ill-thought out proposals will do nothing to improve public confidence or crime figures.”

Graeme Pearson MSP, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, added: “SNP cuts mean our thin blue line is getting thinner. Police stations are closing to the public, police officers are being taken off our street to cover back-office cuts and more cuts are in the pipeline. With budget cuts of almost £140 million over the next two years, how Police Scotland remains local, responsive, accessible and flexible will be the biggest challenge.”

The figures also reveal a fall in crimes by under-18s, from 41,203 in 2008-9, to 19,880 in 2012-13, where there was enough evidence for prosecutors to consider launching criminal proceedings. Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “It is especially encouraging to see significant decreases in crimes which can have a negative impact on communities such as youth offending, down by over half since 2008-9.

“This is backed by the lowest rates of recorded crime in almost 40 years and over 1,000 extra officers in communities.”