Number of sex offenders in Suffolk soars

Tuesday, 27 October, 2009

NEW figures show the number of registered sex offenders living in Suffolk has risen by more than a third in the last five years.

Latest Home Office statistics reveal an increase of around 150 signatures on the county's sex offenders register since 2003.

But ministers have come under fire for sparking 'total confusion' over figures showing the number of offenders currently under state supervision.

Ministry of Justice statistics show just a slight rise in the number of registered offenders being monitored in Suffolk since last year.

But figures for 2008/9 only reveal the number of criminals falling under multi-agency public protection arrangements (Mappa) as of March 31 this year, rather than an annual total applied in previous years.

Nevertheless, a total of 439 sex offenders were registered by March, of whom 12 were cautioned or convicted for reoffending in the last year.

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, said the figures uncovered a 'worrying trend' that put strain on Mappa - made up of police, local councils and other government agencies to monitor offenders.

Mr Ruffley responded to Home Office figures with concern that police will be put under too much pressure to keep track of offenders. 'The increase in the number of sex offenders being registered is a sign of progress but it also underlines the need to allow police to do their jobs,' said the shadow policing minister.

'As a result of this worrying trend there will be pressure on police time to keep an eye on these offenders in local communities.

'That is why it is all the more important to cut the amount of police time wasted on unnecessary bureaucracy.'

National Mappa statistics also showed a drop in the number of violent criminals currently under supervision. But the figures were again criticised by the probation officers union Napo, which warned changes in the way Mappa statistics are collated would falsely suggest a fall in the number of violent offenders living in our community.

A justice spokesman said the change would ensure consistency with the data on registered sex offenders.

Harry Fletcher, of Napo, said the change could give the impression that there has been a reduction in numbers. 'In reality the number of violent offenders has almost certainly increased,' he said.