Thousands of sex offenders living in Thames Valley – how to see if you live near one

Almost 2,000 registered sex offenders are living in Thames Valley, new figures reveal.

Police forces, probation services and other government agencies keep tabs on dangerous criminals living in communities in England and Wales using special management plans known as Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements.

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Ministry of Justice figures show 1,963 registered sex offenders were being managed under MAPPA in the Thames Valley Police area as of March this year.

That is a rate of 93 offenders for every 100,000 people, well below the average for England and Wales, of 119.

Sex offenders sentenced to at least 30 months in prison remain on the register indefinitely – although some can apply to be removed after 15 years, following a change to the law in 2012.

Thames Valley Police removed 13 people from the register following an application last year, with the number of sex offenders growing by 39 per cent from 2018-19.

The vast majority in Thames Valley are classed as level one offenders, which means police and other agencies share information about them, but no special measures are required.

But offenders in Thames Valley were placed in the level two category 24 times during 2019-20, meaning agencies have to hold regular meetings to discuss them.

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These offenders pose such a big risk that additional resources such as specialised accommodation may be needed to manage them.

Registered sex offenders have to tell police of any changes to their circumstances, such as their address, foreign travel plans, and potential contact with children.

In Thames Valley, 233 offenders were cautioned or convicted for failing to do so last year.

The figures also show that 623 violent offenders – those who have committed crimes such as murder, kidnapping and grievous bodily harm – were living in Thames Valley in March.

But this could also include other sexual offenders who are not required to be on the register.

Abigail Gill, policy and public affairs manager at the NSPCC, said: “It’s vital the system is able to manage and monitor these offenders in the community to rehabilitate them and ensure children and young people are protected.

“Sexual abuse has an absolutely devastating impact on young lives and this strategy must focus on prevention and put the experiences and needs of children at its heart.”

The NSPCC is calling for the Home Office’s promised Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy to be implemented without delay, urging the Government to ensure it joins up cross-department efforts to prevent sexual abuse across society.

In response, the Government said the national strategy will be published before the end of the year.

A MoJ spokesman said: “We are increasing prison time for the most dangerous sex offenders and when they are released they go on the sex offender register and can be brought back to jail if they break their strict licence conditions.

“As sex offenders are required to register for long periods of time, many for life, the number monitored continues to grow as more are caught and convicted.”

What is Sarah’s Law?

The child sex offender disclosure scheme in England and Wales (also sometimes known as “Sarah’s Law”), allows anyone to ask the police if someone with access to a child has a record for child sexual offences.

Police will reveal details confidentially to the person most able to protect the child (usually parents, carers or guardians) if they think it is in the child’s interests.

What is the background to the scheme?

The law was developed in consultation with Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter Sarah was murdered by a convicted paedophile.

Sarah, who lived in Hersham, Surrey, disappeared on the evening of July 1, 2000 from a cornfield near the home of her paternal grandparents in Kingston Gorse, West Sussex.

A body was found on July 17, 2000 in a field near Pulborough, some 15 miles from Kingston Gorse where she had disappeared. It was confirmed as Sarah.

Roy Whiting was convicted of the abduction and murder of Sarah on December 12, 2001 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

After he was convicted, it was revealed that Whiting had previously abducted and sexually assaulted an eight-year-old girl and had served four years in prison for that crime.

Ms Payne campaigned to bring in a law which allows every parent in the country to know if dangerous offenders are living in their area.

Who goes on the Sex Offenders’ Register?

What constitutes “sex offender” doesn’t necessarily mean “paedophile”.

A wide variety of people are placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register every year, after receiving a caution or being convicted of an offence.

This could be, for example, a man who received a caution for having smacked a girl on the buttocks while she was passing him on the street, a 22-year-old female teacher who had sexual intercourse with her 15-year-old student, or at the very serious end of the scale, someone like Roy Whiting, who killed Sarah Payne.

Similarly, sex offenders are on the Sex Offenders’ Register for differing lengths of time, depending on the type of offence:

A jail term of 30 months to life = remain on the register indefinitely

A jail term of 6 to 30 months = registration for 10 years

A sentence of less than 6 months = on the register for seven years

A community order sentence = on the register for five years

A caution issued = on the register for two years

With the exception of prison sentences of 30 months or more, minors (offenders under the age of 18) will have their registration period halved.

How do I access the information?

Important: If you feel a child is in immediate danger, you should call 999 straight away.

In all other circumstances that are not an emergency, you can request information relating to a child that you are in a position to protect or safeguard by calling 101 or visit your local police station.

Alternatively you can go to a police station and ask them for a ‘Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme Form’ (Sarah’s Law), or Form 284.

If police checks show the individual has a record for child sexual offences, or other offences that might put the child at risk, the police will consider sharing this information.

You should know that disclosure is not guaranteed – the police will only consider telling the person best placed to protect the child – usually a parent, carer or guardian – if the person being checked has a record of child sexual offences or other offences that indicate they may pose a risk to a child.

The police will disclose information only if it is lawful, necessary and proportionate to do so in the interests of protecting the child, or children, from harm.

For more advice and information on protecting children from abuse, visit the Parents Protect website

But you should know that even if they do release the information…

If the police make a disclosure, parents and carers must keep the information confidential and only use it to keep their child safe. Legal action may be taken if confidentiality is breached.

Royal Borough Observer | News WIndsor