The 850 sex offenders who have gone on the run: Alarm as the number who vanish after signing register doubles in two years
- Nearly 700 sex offenders missing for more than a year
- Register 'out of control' say victims groups
- Figures revealed by Freedom of Information request
Nearly 850 registered sex offenders are on the run from the police, it emerged yesterday.
Nearly 700 of them have been missing for more than a year, and one has been at large for nearly a decade.
The total means the number of perverts who have vanished from the radar has more than doubled in just two years.
Slipped through the net: Serial rapist Peter Chapman, left, had been off the police radar when he went on to rape and murder trainee nurse Ashleigh Hall, 17
The figures raise serious concerns about the extent of police checks on criminals placed on the official Sex Offenders’ Register, and efforts to find them once they have absconded.
Victims’ groups said the register was ‘out of control’ and warned that sex offenders were getting away with staying ‘underground and undetected’.
Anyone given a jail sentence of 30 months or more for a sex crime, ranging from repeated indecent exposure to rape, is automatically placed on the register for life. There are now more than 37,000 names on it.
Those on the register are required to tell the police if they change their address and can be subject to regular checks.
But figures show that on September 1 last year a total of 843 had disappeared. Of those, some 690 had been untraceable for more than 12 months. On the same day in 2009 there were just 356 registered sex offenders at large, fewer than half the 2011 number.
The numbers at large for more than a year have also more than doubled. Two years ago the total stood at 260.
Now the figures released following a Freedom of Information request to the National Policing Improvement Agency show more than one in 50 of all those on the register are missing.
Separate figures reveal that 57 registered sex offenders were charged with a further offence last year.
An example of an offender who disappeared was serial rapist Peter Chapman, who was off the police radar for seven months after his monitoring level was downgraded by the authorities.
He went on to rape and murder 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall after contacting her on Facebook.
Chapman posed as a teenager on the internet to lure the trainee nurse to her death. He was jailed for life in 2010.
‘The blame for this cannot be put at the doors of the police. How many paedophiles can be tracked down when the police are being asked to do so much paperwork?’
Lynn Costello, of Mothers Against Murder and Aggression
Lynn Costello, of Mothers Against Murder and Aggression, said: ‘The figures don’t surprise me because nobody has really had a control of the sex offenders register since it was brought in.
‘These people are offenders who want to move around and remain underground and undetected.
‘But all the blame for this cannot be put at the doors of the police. How many paedophiles can be tracked down when the police are being asked to do so much paperwork?’
Despite the huge numbers of criminals at large, barely a handful of sex offenders are listed on police wanted websites.
The ‘Most Wanted’ page of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) website shows the details of just two missing child sex offenders.
Wanted: Jason Waller, left, and Stephen Clare, right, are the only two missing child sex offenders listed by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
Jason Waller, 35, has been missing for four years. He was sentenced to three years for assaulting three children, but disappeared in 2008.
Stephen Clare, 40, has been off the radar for nine years. He was jailed for sexually assaulting a five-year-old girl and taking indecent photographs in the 1990s.
He served 18 months and was released from jail in 1998, when he moved to Brighton. Police said decisions on whether to publicise individual offenders would depend on the circumstances in each case, and work was being done behind the scenes to hunt offenders down.
Cumbria Assistant Chief Constable Michelle Skeer, spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers on the management of sexual offenders, said monitoring was working and fewer serious offences were being committed by dangerous offenders.
She said: ‘The UK has some of the most effective techniques in the world to manage registered sex offenders.’
From next year sex offenders put on the register for life will be able to appeal to have their name removed, following a human rights ruling.
At the same time, ministers have pledged to impose closer checks and close loopholes in the law.
In future sex offenders will have to inform officers if they begin living with a child under the age of 18, and if they change their name by deed poll.
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Home Secretary Theresa May has made clear her priority is protecting the public from predatory sex offenders and the Government is doing everything it can to tighten the law.
‘We have consulted on strengthening notification requirements for registered sex offenders.
‘We will be making an announcement on these measures shortly.’