Calls were made today for tougher monitoring of sex offenders after the police admitted they had lost track of some offenders on a supervision programme.
The Belfast Telegraph has learned that four registered offenders were recently classified as missing by the PSNI, raising concern of lapses in the monitoring scheme which is designed to ensure the public’s safety.
The PSNI admitted they did not know the whereabouts of the offenders but refused to provide any details of their crimes, risk level or how long they had been unaccounted for, claiming it was “not in the public interest”.
Details of the missing offenders were disclosed to this newspaper under Freedom of Information legislation.
Police confirmed the location of four registered sex offenders was unknown on October 3 this year but said that figure is reviewed on a daily basis.
They declined to say how many – if any – of the missing offenders have been found since the FOI request was answered.
Released sex offenders are supposed to be monitored by officials working under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).
Latest figures show almost 900 offenders are being monitored across Northern Ireland.
A PSNI spokesman said the offenders were recorded as missing on October 3, adding: “The information is dynamic and will change as arrests are made or new cases come to light through proactive, intelligence-led policing or routine visits to registered offenders.”
It is crucial that every effort is made to identify where people have gone missing
The PSNI was asked to provide the names, photographs, risk level and the last known whereabouts of offenders who are unaccounted for, but the request was refused on the grounds that releasing the information was not in the public interest.
“As far as the Police Service is concerned, the protection of the community must take precedence,” the spokesman stated, adding that the PSNI would “be failing in its duty to protect all members of the public, regardless of who they are” if the information was disclosed.
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson said that he was concerned by the news and called for more effective supervision to be made of of sex offenders.
“Obviously this information is very disturbing and news that four offenders are unaccounted for will no doubt create some degree of fear,” he said.
“It is important for the Prison Service, the probation authorities and the PSNI to look at how this has happened and learn lessons so that more effective steps are taken in the future to avoid these offenders disappearing from view.
“At the same time it is also crucial that every effort is made to identify where people have gone missing and to bring them back into the system.”
In February 2007, the PSNI was criticised after Robert Simpson Wallace, who police said posed a serious risk to women and children, went missing twice in the space of seven months.