Police Scotland to watch sex offenders more closely

THE most dangerous sexual offenders in Scotland are to be subjected to increased surveillance by the country’s new single police force.

Senior officers at Police Scotland, which becomes operational tomorrow, have set up a dedicated offender management unit in all 14 of its divisions to minimise the risks of new offences.

The move is part of the new force’s strategy to target high-risk offenders living in communities across the country. Police Scotland said resources were now being increased to improve monitoring and the application of sexual offence prevention orders imposed by the courts.

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Some forces have been criticised for failing to keep track of ­offenders who frequently move addresses.

One survey found that one in seven sex offenders with court orders imposed to monitor their behaviour broke them in a single year.

Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, head of major crime and public protection in the new force, said: “One of the key things that will be different will be a requirement for high-risk offenders to be managed and the risk reduced.

“That requires additional support and resources, and we will be able to apply that.”

He added: “It might be the means by which they have been monitored. It might be resource-intensive covert work. Some of it is about supporting sexual offence prevention orders.

“The duty is on us to monitor the requirements that are in the orders.”

Provisions with the orders include curfew, restrictions on where offenders live and where they travel to and who they meet and spend time with. They can also include being ordered to stay away from schools.

“If an order is granted by the courts, the duty is on us to monitor it,” Graham said. “In future we will have more flexible resources to make sure, as much as possible, that we know if there’s going to be a breach of that order.”

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Sex offenders in Scotland are managed through Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (Mappa), bringing together police, social workers and other relevant professionals. Offenders are grouped by the likelihood of them re-offending, from low to medium, high and very high. Those likely to be subject to ­increased targeting by Police Scotland will be both high-risk and dangerous.

Police have been criticised when they have failed to prevent dangerous offenders from committing new crimes. Strathclyde Police had to apologise in 2011 after violent and predatory paedophile Thomas Smith sexually assaulted a mother and raped her ten-year-old daughter before murdering them both.

An independent review found “more robust management” of Smith would have identified his “increasing risk” and potentially saved the lives of Diane Fallon, 43, and daughter Holly.

Smith, 28, who had previously been jailed for six months for assaulting a child in England, moved into a flat next to the family in the small Ayrshire village of Cronberry, near Cumnock. The former soldier tied up his victims, raped Holly and bit her mother’s body before strangling them.

Last year, Kevin Rooney, 26, who had been jailed 22 times, was sentenced for the rape and murder of Rosina Sutherland, 74, in a sheltered housing bungalow in Edinburgh. He had been released on bail seven weeks before the attack.

The Scottish Conservatives have called for sex offenders who vanish from their registered addresses to be identified on an online database. That followed the arrest of Fraser McLaughlin, from Hamilton, who went missing and was found in Dublin in 2010.

He had broken Sex Offenders’ Register conditions and failed to answer bail, but was captured after his details and a photograph were placed on the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre’s “most wanted” website.

Victim support campaigners said the emphasis on monitoring high-risk offenders was a welcome development.

David Sinclair, of Victim Support Scotland, said: “If the new police force gives it particular attention, it’s certainly good news for victims and ­potential ­victims.”

Twitter: @Gareth_Rose