Eleven thousand convicted sex offenders are currently living in Northern Ireland, it has emerged.
But these sex offenders are just “a percentage of those who pose a risk to the public”, the Northern Ireland Sex Offender Strategic Management Committee ( NISOSMC) has warned.
In its annual report released yesterday the committee warns that substantial evidence exists to suggest that sex offending is still under-reported by as much as 80%.
According to the report six high risk sex offenders, whose offending has been assessed as “likely to lead them to seriously harm other people,” are among more than 700 Ulster sex offenders whose behaviour is currently being managed in the community.
A total of 257 sex offenders being managed in the community have been categorised as medium risk — meaning their behaviour gives “clear cause for concern” — and 494 are low risk.
They are all subject to Multi-Agency Sex Offender Risk Assessment and Management (MASRAM) — a set of arrangements which aim to protect the public from the risks posed by serious sex offenders.
The MASRAM arrangements, introduced in 2001, only cover those who have been cautioned or convicted for a sexual offence and a small number of others who have been reported with a view to prosecution.
The report also shows that the largest number of community managed sex offenders (116) remain in the south Belfast area where there is a high concentration of rental accommodation. Two of these sex offenders are Category 3 — the highest risk.
Another two high risk sex offenders are residing in the north Belfast area, one in the Down District Council area and one in the Omagh area.
Chairman of NISOSMC, Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, said that protecting the public from the risks of sex offenders is the core aim of all of the agencies.
“Protection of the public comes first. It is important that we treat every offender as an individual and, in every case, identify the specific risks which are posed so that targeted risk management plans can be developed and delivered to reduce them. The agencies involved are committed to carrying out that process to the highest possible standards,” he said.
The existing MASRAM arrangements in Northern Ireland will soon be replaced and extended to cover violent offenders as well. New public protection arrangements, currently under development, will build on the existing MASRAM arrangements.
The full report is available here.