How police incompetence and human rights law are making life easier for sex offenders

What is the point of a register of sex offenders?

Surely a register is required because someone somewhere realised, quite rightly, that sex crimes are particularly abhorrent, and victims deserve particular protection.

It also reflects the commonly accepted notions that sex offenders are more likely to commit repeated offences and that the severity of their crimes can escalate quickly.

So once the principle of a register is accepted, we are left with questions about how it should be managed, who should be on it for how long, and so on.

Raped and murdered: Ashleigh Hall, a 17-year-old trainee nurse

Raped and murdered: Ashleigh Hall, a 17-year-old trainee nurse

Today the Mail has published some figures which raise serious questions about police forces and their efforts - or rather lack of effort - to maintain an appropriate level of vigilance.

There are now 850 registered sex offenders who the police have 'lost'. Most of them, nearly 700 or so, have been absent from the address where they are registered, for more than a year. 

That the total has more than doubled in just two years - from 360 two years ago.

And yet we very rarely hear any public appeals from the police for help in finding these dangerous offenders. Is that because they aren't really looking? Or because officers fear the fallout from telling their communities that a local pervert is missing and they have no idea where they are?

To return to our original question, what is the point of a register if sex offenders can abscond with impunity?

Another serious problem with the register is how human rights law is being used to undermine its effectiveness.

Until today, anyone who was jailed for 30 months or more for a sex offence would remain on the register for life.

But following a Supreme Court ruling they will now be given the opportunity to 'prove' they are no longer a threat to the public.

Slipped through the net: Rapist and murderer Peter Chapman

Slipped through the net: Rapist and murderer Peter Chapman

It could mean criminals with convictions for child rape and other serious offences being removed from the register and taken off police monitoring.

They will even have the right of appeal to the Magistrates' Court if their first attempt to get off the register fails.

Credit to ministers, they have used this as an opportunity to toughen up other aspects of the register, from the 'park bench loophole' which allowed homeless sex offenders to give their address as a public place, to restrictions on foreign travel.

But if serious criminals aren't on it, and the police aren't really checking anyway, what's the point of a sex offenders' register?

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