Vera Baird alarmed by sex offender moves

A North East police boss has written to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling expressing “significant concerns” about not being told when foreign sex offenders are housed in the region

Northumbria Police Commissioner Vera Baird
Northumbria Police Commissioner Vera Baird

A North East police boss has written to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling expressing “significant concerns” about not being told when foreign sex offenders are housed in the region.

Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird said she was alarmed when she was informed that there was no routine process in place to make sure local officers are informed when convicts awaiting deportation come to the area after being released from prison.

Mrs Baird became aware of the issue when concerns were raised by the probation service.

She said the current arrangements, which mean police are not always told when a sex offender is in their area, are inadequate and put public safety at risk.

Mrs Baird said: “I find it alarming that police are not routinely told when a sex offender is moved to their area and that often there is a lack of information provided about individuals.

“I have written to the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, outlining my significant concerns over a number of areas which have been highlighted as issues relating to immigration bail in the Northumbria area.”

Accommodation is currently provided for foreign nationals who have completed a prison sentence while they either apply for asylum or wait deportation.

Convicts can be housed anywhere in the country, and there are currently 10 such individuals in the Northumbria Police area.

The force works closely with the Home Office Immigration Law Enforcement and a company which provides accommodation in the North East to monitor those housed in the area.

But Northumbria’s Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) team has raised concerns with the PCC.

Mrs Baird has been informed of two instances in which police have not been given information about those convicted of serious violent or sexual crimes that are living in the area. On one occasion a sex offender was housed in the Northumbria Police area and officers only became aware of his background when he signed on to the sex offenders’ register.

But had he failed to comply with this term of his release he would not have come to the attention of police and other agencies.

On another occasion, police were not aware of a violent offender housed in the area until he began to cause trouble at his accommodation.

The housing manager called police and it was only when officers checked out his background that they discovered how high-risk he could be.

This means officers are not fully aware of the individual’s background and not able to manage them properly in the community.

Mrs Baird is also concerned about the lack of responsibility for transport arrangements, which means those released on immigration bail are able to travel unescorted to their new address, a loophole which means they may not arrive in the area.

Mrs Baird added: “I don’t believe these issues are unique to Northumbria and will have an impact on other police forces across the UK.

“I’ve urged the Government to ensure risk assessments of individuals are carried out robustly by experienced staff and it’s vital police have access to all information about an individual to be able to manage them properly and maintain community confidence in the justice system.

“There are gaps which have been identified which I’ve asked the Justice Secretary to address and I have asked for his support to resolve some issues and get some clarity around others.”

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