Sex Offenders (Monitoring)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 10th March 2016.

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Photo of Paul Martin Paul Martin Labour

2. To ask the Scottish Government how many registered sex offenders there are in Scotland and what resources are being allocated to monitor them. (S4O-05647)

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Police Scotland’s national offender management unit is responsible for collating and publishing statistics about registered sex offenders, the details of which can be found on the Police Scotland website. It is for Police Scotland, local authorities, the Scottish Prison Service and health boards, as the responsible authorities, to determine the arrangements that are necessary to meet individual requirements, risks and circumstances.

Photo of Paul Martin Paul Martin Labour

I do not want to be directed to a website; I want the specific figure. I advise the cabinet secretary that the latest figures provided by the Scottish Government show that convictions of sex offenders for offences against children have trebled over the past three years. Is the time not right to consider an urgent reform of how we manage registered sex offenders that will deal with how we sentence them and to look at whether we should put in place proper neighbourhood notifications so that our communities are aware of the most dangerous individuals in our country?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

I am aware of the statistics that the member refers to, but he will be aware that a significant proportion of those are associated with historical cases that have been outstanding for some time and are now being reported. Of course, it is important that we are confident that we have robust measures in place to deal with the risks that registered sex offenders may pose.

The member will be aware of the robust multi-agency public protection arrangements that we have in Scotland, which Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary in Scotland and the Care Inspectorate considered last year. In the report that they published, they set out what they believe to be the significant ways in which we deal with registered sex offenders; they also made several recommendations about further improvements, and we are taking forward that work.

In relation to accommodation, one of the recommendations that we are taking forward is about streamlining and reducing the bureaucracy that is associated with aspects of the environmental risk assessment for housing registered sex offenders. The national strategic group, which will be responsible for the governance and scrutiny of the process, met last month to consider how to take that work forward.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

On the housing of registered sex offenders, I return to a regular concern of mine: the national accommodation strategy for sex offenders. As the cabinet secretary knows, such offenders must be returned to the place where they resided when the offence took place, unless another authority will take them. That means that, in some circumstances, they go back to where the crime took place, which is horrendous for the people in that area. Can a note be left for the incoming Government to ask it to revisit NASSO with regard to the rehousing of sex offenders?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

Decisions on where sex offenders live are based on where they can be appropriately monitored and supervised and on minimising any risk that they might pose. In their report on the MAPPA procedures that we operate, HMICS and the Care Inspectorate picked up issues of streamlining and reducing the bureaucracy of the environmental risk assessment that is undertaken by the MAPPA responsible authorities in considering any accommodation issues.

As I set out to Mr Martin, work is being taken forward to implement that report’s recommendations. I assure Christine Grahame that we regularly monitor issues relating to sex offenders to ensure that, when the operation of the robust measures that we have in place can be improved, we improve it.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

I think that the cabinet secretary is aware of my particular concern about the rehousing of sex offenders in multistorey flats and other properties with communal entrances and exits. Has any consideration been given to the dangers that such situations pose to young people who might live there, and does the Government plan to take any action as a result?

Photo of Michael Matheson Michael Matheson Scottish National Party

As the member will be aware, I just pointed out that under MAPPA and the national accommodation strategy for sex offenders, an environmental risk assessment is conducted to identify any risks that might be associated with housing-related issues for sex offenders. It is then for the appropriate responsible authorities to take forward any additional measures that they believe are necessary to address such issues. In short, there is an assessment process to identify risk, and it is then for the responsible authorities in those areas to take forward under MAPPA any appropriate action to address those matters.