Scots sex offenders may be on the run abroad

Nine sex offenders who have gone missing could be on the run overseas, the Justice Secretary has suggested.
Kenny MacAskill: Missing sex offenders may have fled abroad. Picture: Phil WilkinsonKenny MacAskill: Missing sex offenders may have fled abroad. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Kenny MacAskill: Missing sex offenders may have fled abroad. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

At the end of September, 10 registered sex offenders were unaccounted for in Scotland, Kenny MacAskill revealed.

Nine of them are believed to be abroad.

The number was disclosed as he answered a parliamentary question from Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell.

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The Conservative justice spokeswoman said: “The SNP says tracking of sex offenders in Scotland is among the most stringent anywhere but these figures tell us a different story.

“These sex offenders who have fled the country could have been stopped if GPS tracking had been introduced. The technology to do exactly this has existed for some time and the Scottish Government has a responsibility to the public to make sure this measure is available and utilised.”

In his answer, Mr MacAskill said the figures are only valid for September “because the information is dynamic and will change as arrests are made, or new cases come to light through intelligence-led policing, or through the routine management of such offenders”.

Ms Mitchell said: “Once an offender has escaped the watch of authorities here, there isn’t much to stop them re-embarking on the insidious and dangerous behaviour that brought them to the attention of police in the first place.

“It would be of significant embarrassment to Scotland if any of these individuals re-offend elsewhere when they were supposed to be supervised by police here.”

Questions from the Tory also revealed that between 2007-08 and 2011-12 there were 247 occasions when sexual offence prevention orders were breached. The orders impose conditions on offenders in an attempt to keep people safe.

Over the same period 685 cases were recorded in which sex offenders were convicted of either providing false information to the police or failing to notify officers when, for example, they are released from prison.

Ms Mitchell said: “The number of breaches also shows us that too many sex offenders are being released early when they are simply not ready to be placed back in society. Furthermore, the proposed closure of more police office counters and the reduction in the opening hours of others where these offenders are required to report only adds to an already escalating and deeply worrying problem.

“These are issues which must be addressed.

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“In the meantime, the axing of automatic early release for sex offenders would immediately help to reduce these totally unacceptable numbers.”

First Minister Alex Salmond has already announced plans to end automatic early release for the most violent criminals, including sex offenders.

Ministers are also considering using GPS satellite technology to track sex offenders, with a consultation under way on how technology could help monitor criminals more effectively.