'˜Great concern' over Derry sex offenders

Derry & Strabane Councillors have warned that there is 'great concern' over sex offenders living amongst the community in the area.

Tuesday, 17th May 2016, 7:26 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th May 2016, 9:31 am
The Guildhall.

They were speaking as it emerged the PSNI and An Gardai Siochana are working together with other agencies to monitor sex offenders crossing the border.

Derry & Strabane Council’s Health and Community Committee was told on Thursday there are 111 sex abuse and domestic violence offenders resident here.

During a presentation by representatives from the Public Protection Arrangements NI (PPANI) group, Julie Smyth, PPANI Co-ordinator related how public concerns about sex offenders living in the community grew during the 1990s following a number of high profile cases, resulting in a raft of measures to safeguard people.

PPANI was set up to reduce the offender’s opportunity or inclination to re-offend and manage the risk posed, she said, adding that licence conditions prohibit offenders living at an address unless it has been approved.

PSNI Detective Inspector Tara Swann said regular meetings are held with multiple agencies to review risks on a case-by-case basis. She added that the “victim’s voice is always at the table”.

The majority of the sex abuse and domestic violence offenders living locally are deemed Category One risk. Category One involves offenders where there is “little evidence that they will cause serious harm.” The second category involves cases where there is “present clear and identifiable evidence that they could cause serious harm through carrying out a contact sexual or violent crime.”

SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly queried how well equipped the authorities were to deal with offenders coming from other areas, including other parts of Ireland.

Dt. Insp. Swann responded: “In respect of cross-border, I myself and one of the points of contact within An Garda Siochana, speak on a regular basis. For offenders who travel back and forth, we will have members of An Garda Siochana around the table.”

She added that there was now a Europe-wide exercise working towards information sharing in a much better way.

Sinn Fein Colr. Christopher Jackson said the number of offenders came as “no surprise”, several having been brought to his attention.

He said there was “great concern” among local people on this issue, adding that in some cases, the perpetrators were actually living close to their victims.

Colr. Jackson added that the sharing of information left a lot to be desired, and that there were victims who were not even notified about the details around the release of the perpetrator. Nor, he added, was information shared with PSNI local neighbourhood officers.

“It has been frustrating in the past as we seem to be coming up against a brick wall,” he said, adding: “What people living in communities see is, there is a sexual offender within their community and that may put their children at risk.”

Ms Smyth said that victims had to agree to go onto a register that would automatically result in access to information. “For whatever reason, a victim may feel they are not able to take that step,” she said.