Belfast Telegraph

Concern voiced at number of people who get their names taken off sex offenders’ list

By Michael Shiels McNamee

Almost 20 names of convicted sex offenders have been taken off the proscribed list in the past year, it can be revealed.

Over the course of 12 months - between April 2016 and April 2017 - a total of 24 applications were made by sex offenders to the PSNI.

After an application is made, the PSNI is responsible for deciding whether or not a sex offender still poses a risk to the public.

Information released to this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act shows that of the 24 cases reviewed, 18 names were struck off.

Since 2013 amended legislation to bring Northern Ireland into line with European Convention on Human Rights has meant that convicted sex criminals are able to apply to the Chief Constable to be discharged from the register.

Offenders are only eligible to apply after being on the register for 15 years - not including time spent in prison.

This period of time is reduced to eight years for those offenders who were under the age of 18 at the time of their being convicted.

Responding to the figures, the NSPCC in Northern Ireland said: "Sexual offences have a devastating and often lifelong impact on the victims of these horrendous crimes.

"Before anyone in Northern Ireland is removed from requirements to report as a sex offender, they should undergo a thorough risk assessment.

"If they still pose a threat to children they must continue to report to the authorities.

"We also believe those still on the register have to be strictly monitored, and this should include regular visits from the police."

In November last year our sister paper Sunday Life reported that over two years to March 2016, 53 review applications had been made to the PSNI with the names of 39 sex offenders being struck off the register - meaning that almost 20 names a year had been removed over the past three years.

Responding to the figures, East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said it was crucial to look at whether any of the people removed from the register had gone on to reoffend.

"That would be the crucial thing, because obviously that would be the wider concern in the community," he said.

"While there are different grades of sex offenders, if a name is removed from the sex offenders' register and then they subsequently reoffend, then quite serious questions would have to be asked about why they were removed in the first place.

"That is why, in my view and in the view of a significant number of people, extreme caution should be used when removing people's names from the sex offenders' register."

Meanwhile, the Alliance Party's South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw said: "I have faith that the PSNI is robustly assessing the applications for name-removal; however, sexual crime is on the increase and it is essential that consideration of the impact on their victims is a priority part of the process."

The PSNI was contacted for a comment but had not responded at the time of going to press.

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