Keeping tabs on offenders

PROACTIVE Detective Chief Inspector Victoria Dennis, MAPPA lead and head of the Paedophile and Online Investigation Team at Hampshire police. Picture: M J BRAYLEY
PROACTIVE Detective Chief Inspector Victoria Dennis, MAPPA lead and head of the Paedophile and Online Investigation Team at Hampshire police. Picture: M J BRAYLEY
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A STAGGERING 1,767 criminals were considered so dangerous they require specialist supervision to protect the public, The News can reveal.

The total Registered Sex Offenders, violent and other dangerous offenders subject to Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) in our area rose from 1,752 by the end of March last year, latest figures show.

Computers, mobile phones seized by police as part of Operation Zibeline

Computers, mobile phones seized by police as part of Operation Zibeline

Each of these criminals is believed to be capable of causing serious harm and may need help from organisations ranging from police to probation to minimise that risk.

Every offender subject to MAPPA has been convicted or cautioned of a crime – although their age, sentence and the age of any victim are considered.

Police urge the public not to be frightened by the rise, which has seen RSOs in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight subject to MAPPA rise from 1,386 to 1,403 year-on-year.

Instead they are reassuring residents they are doing all they can to ensure at-risk criminals are properly monitored and receive the help they need to reduce the risk of them re-offending.

Detective Chief Inspector Victoria Dennis, MAPPA lead and head of the Paedophile and Online Investigation Team at Hampshire police, said: ‘The more proactive we become in conducting investigations will increase the numbers of sex offenders.

‘Some offenders are subject to life time registration, which means the number of offenders will continue to rise. However, there is now new legislation where offenders can appeal to come off the register after 15 years.

‘Yes it’s scary that the numbers are going up, but it means the police are catching them. We are going out there, we are targeting people who have committed sexual offences against adults and children, and by putting these measures in place in effect it actually looks like it is a more dangerous community than it is.’

Currently, those sentenced to more than 30 months in jail for a sex-related crime – against an adult or a child – can be required to register with police for life.

But new rules introduced in September mean sex attackers in England and Wales can now appeal against staying on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life.

But they have to wait 15 years after being released from jail and prove to police they should no longer be registered.

If their bid is rejected the offender can appeal in court.

It means more sex offenders could drop off the register, but also that all convicted sex attackers had to re-register from September.

Det Chief Insp Dennis added: ‘We are now in the process of identifying anybody that hasn’t re-registered.

‘Clearly they are then in breach of that notification – Hampshire Constabulary will take positive action.

‘We do take it seriously and we will take them back to court, what the courts do as a result of that is out of our hands.

‘The breaches could be not telling us they have moved or going abroad, or living with a child.

‘They have recently, under the new notification, have to provide their financial details.

‘The whole process is about managing offenders to reduce the risk and prevent them committing offences. As well as being a police officer, I’m also a member of the community and I’m reassured that I know these people are being effectively managed by the police, probation or MAPPA and actually that therefore reduces the risk.

‘If people do breach their notifications, if we were to say too much to the media, sex or violent offenders become aware of what tactics we use and it makes us less effective.

‘Anything that raises the risk to the public, we can’t do.

‘We sometimes run the risk of false rumour, and the offender going underground and community concerns.

‘If one offender goes underground or disappears because we’ve talked about them we are honestly putting the public at risk because we don’t know where they are or where they are going.

‘Without knowing there they are in the community or abroad you can’t alert the other forces.’

Det Chief Insp Dennis is now urging parents and guardians to ensure they know who their child is associating with. She said: ‘What’s particularly concerning is there is a lot of fear the offences are committed by strangers. Actually it’s a very low level that are committed by strangers.

‘People potentially see it as “if I’m in the street with my children can I be at risk?”. What we are actually trying to say is you have got to be very mindful and careful with everybody.

‘It can be acquaintances, family friends, people you have known closely in groups – the majority of offenders are known to the victim in some way.

‘It’s all about managing and reducing the risk to the community. It’s very effective.

‘Disclosure is considered at every single review and meeting. If we have got any new information that suggests any victim, any child might be at risk, or any person, then there is a discussion by senior probation, senior police officers as to who we could be disclosing to. When we feel that there is a risk so high that we need to tell that person, that they might be associating or their child might be associating with a RSO, that would be done.

‘We have got to weigh that up against their human rights.’

Det Insp Dennis added: ‘As a parent it is important to know where your children are and who they are with and if you have got any concerns about a person they have contact with you should contact the police or social services department.

‘What we don’t want is vigilantes and rumours starting, particularly using social media because that is dangerous without knowing the facts.

‘We would much rather have that information. We will make checks and arrest people where appropriate.’

About MAPPA

What are Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements?

MAPPA are put in place to assess and manage the risk posed to the public by violent and sex offenders. Agencies involved include police, probation, prison and social services and others.

What type of offender is subject to MAPPA?

· Anyone who appears on the Sex Offenders’ Register.

· Violent offenders jailed for a year or more who are now living in the community.

· Dangerous offenders considered to pose a risk of serious harm to the public.

How does MAPPA work?

There are three levels:

MAPPA 1 – The lowest management level, normally handled by one agency such as police. They may share information about the offender with other agencies.

MAPPA 2 – Agencies work together to hold regular MAPPA meetings about the offender.

MAPPA 3 – Offenders at this level are usually believed to be particularly dangerous, or there has been a lot of media coverage surrounding the case. They need more resources and stricter monitoring.

What might be included in the plan?

Each plan is tailored to the individual, but may include accommodation at an approved premise such as a bail hostel, licence conditions surrounding contacting children, or going within an exclusion zone in a town/city.

· A civil order such as a Sex Offender Order to prevent the offender doing certain activities, such as not entering a town where a victim resides, not to have unsupervised contact with children.

· A duty to regularly report to an offender manager.

· A disclosure of information about the offender to a member of the public for their protection.

What happens if the offender does not comply with MAPPA?

If they are a RSO they risk five years in jail.

Any offender under probation supervision must comply with their licence conditions.

· Failure to do so could lead to an offender being returned to court where more requirements could be added – or they could be returned to jail.

Who will know the offender is subject to MAPPA?

Information about an offender subject to MAPPA is not public. It is up to him/her who they tell. If the offender is in your family you have no automatic right to be told, unless a MAPPA meeting has decided it is in the best interests of relatives. The only exception applies to anyone convicted of murder where any future partners or employers will be informed.

Operation Zibeline – the aftermath

MEMBERS of a Portsmouth-based international paedophile ring are set to be subject to Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) on their release from jail.

Detective Chief Inspector Victoria Dennis headed the Operation Zibeline probe which led to the conviction of eight sex offenders – seven men and a woman – for their part in the horrific abuse of two children under the age of 13 in the city.

Among them are ringleader Robert Hathaway, 37, of Tyseley Road, Somers Town, whose sentenced was upped to life with a minimum of 10 years earlier this year.

Ex-security guard Hathaway controlled the paedophile ring with partner Melissa Noon, 31, that exploited children for the sexual gratification of adults, setting up a website.

They encouraged others to come to Portsmouth and do the same, sharing films and photos of the abuse around the world online.

The investigation stretched as far as Australia, America, Japan and seven European countries, involving 35 suspects.

Evidence in the case included more than 14,000 indecent images of children and 300 films of children being abused.

Hathaway admitted 45 offences including raping a child and Noon, 30, who was sentenced for 13 offences including sexual assault of a child, had her sentence doubled to eight years in March.

Fellow defendent Simon Hilton, 30, of Wolsey Road, Islington, north London, who was originally jailed for four years with an extended licence period of six years, was given eight years in custody with five on licence when his sentence for 14 offences including arranging a child sex offence was increased.

Six others have been sentenced in relation to the case.

They are Lee Parson, 39, of Arundel Street, Landport, who was jailed for three years; Stephen Fraser, 42, of Hemingford Road, Cambridge, who was sentenced to four years with an extended licence period of six years; John Maddox, 48, of Ellis Avenue, Rainham, Essex, who was jailed for two-and-a-half years; Mark Day, 46, of Whitefriars Meadow, Sandwich, Kent, who received three years, Daniel Bell, 28, previously of St James Road, Emsworth, who was given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

Hathaway, Noon, Hilton, Parson, Fraser, Maddox and Day will be on the Sex Offenders’ Register for life – but could apply for removal after 15 years under new rules introduced in September.