Police hunt for sex offenders who have fled country

Scottish Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell, convener of Holyroods justice committee. Picture: Neil Hanna
Scottish Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell, convener of Holyroods justice committee. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Five registered sex offenders have evaded police and fled the country, it has emerged.

Figures from Police Scotland show there are currently more than 4,000 sex offenders being managed in the community and a further 1,283 in custody or in hospital. But five registered offenders who are required to notify the authorities of their whereabouts are wanted by police and are believed to have left the UK.

Police Scotland said its enquiries had confirmed all five are abroad in “known countries”, with measures in place to arrest them should they return to the UK.

Last month it emerged hundreds of sex offenders have failed to notify police of their whereabouts.

Scottish Government statistics showed 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. 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, convener of Holyrood’s justice committee, said: “It is deeply worrying that Police Scotland has not only lost track of sex offenders, but that five of them have managed to leave the country.

“These are dangerous individuals who have been allowed to escape police attention, are able to re-offend and may already have done so but who have now fled the country.

“Tracking down these criminals should be one of Police Scotland’s top priorities, and it needs now to explain as a matter of some urgency what efforts are being made to recapture these individuals.

“Quite simply, the public will expect all the stops to be pulled out to bring them back so they can face punishment.”

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.

Detective Superintendent Gail Johnson said: “Enquiries have confirmed these five Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs) are all abroad in known countries. Measures are in place to arrest these individuals should they return to the UK.

“The UK has some of the most effective tools and legislation in the world to manage RSOs. While the reality is the risks posed to the public by such individuals can never be completely eliminated, there is significant evidence the multi-agency public protection arrangements successfully keeps them to a minimum.

“Police Scotland has a robust framework and structure in place to enforce this legislation and ensure all the tools available are used to manage RSOs effectively. We give priority to locating missing and wanted sex offenders.”