Sex offender monitoring must be reformed before system is overwhelmed – report

The Government must reform how freed sex offenders are monitored before the system is overwhelmed, a review has warned.

Led by former chief constable of Derbyshire Police Mick Creedon, the report said there is a “pressing” need to reform the system due to a “growing volume” of sex offenders in the past 20 years.

In particular, the review into the police-led management of sex offenders in the community examined the current system of Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).

These are the set of arrangements by which police, probation and prison services work together to assess and monitor violent and sexual offenders to protect the public.

Currently, registered sex offenders are required to notify police of a number of personal details, including their bank details, when they go abroad, when they stay somewhere that is not their usual residence, and when they are staying in a home with a child who is under 18.

According to his report, the number of registered sex offenders has increased 111% since 2006/2007, with a growth of between 3-8% each year. The total number of registered sex offenders reached over 64,000 in 2021.

“I am clear that there is a pressing need to change given the modern complexities of society, of offending and of policing, coupled with the inexorable rise in the current and future numbers subject to MAPPA and police supervision and control”, he said.

“If change is not made, it is clear to me that the volume and complexity will overwhelm, with the inevitable consequence that the ability to manage and control the most dangerous will be compromised, putting the public at risk of future serious victimisation.

“This cannot happen.”

Mr Creedon said there is “some evidence” that registered sex offenders are being “managed effectively” under the current system.

However, he said that the challenges faced by policing have “changed markedly” since 2001.

“As a result, the service now exists with an ever-widening mission in an increasingly global and digital world, with new offences and reduced resources,” he said.

He added that a “growing volume” of sex offenders are entering the MAPPA system each year, driven by the proliferation of the internet, public awareness around sexual offending, and the creation of new offences.

“Whilst there is some reason to believe that the current sex offender management model is effective in managing registered sex offenders in the community, the continual growth in numbers is inevitable,” he said.

“If the average year-on-year increase of 6% was to continue, the number of registered sex offenders managed under MAPPA would be nearing 80,000 within the next two years and would reach over 100,000 by 2029.”

He said that these factors had placed “unprecedented pressures” on both policing and the criminal justice system, which had been “further exacerbated by the long-term reduction in policing resources”.

Pointing to a 14% fall in police officer numbers between 2009-2019, he added: “This significant decrease in police officers and police staff numbers has an obvious effect on the ability of the forces to respond operationally, to manage risk and threat and to deliver front line services, including managing sex offenders in the community.”

Mr Creedon made a series of recommendations in his report, including a review of whether the current notification requirements are fit for purpose, and to explore whether courts should be afforded “discretion” over the application of notification requirements.

His report also recommended that the period of time before an offender can apply to have their notification requirements removed is lowered from 15 years to 10 years, and that the Government create a single risk assessment system across police and probation.

The report said that the Government should commission further research into early intervention, explore the creation of a Sexual Offending Prevention Fund, and avoid creating registers for other categories of offenders, including those convicted of domestic abuse.