Deal on tracking sex offenders welcomed

CHILDREN’S organisations yesterday welcomed a new agreement between Ireland and Britain on tracking sex offenders but said it was not clear if it dealt with those who failed to inform authorities of their movements.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed in Belfast yesterday by Justice Minister Michael McDowell and British Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker.

The agreement sets up a formal system whereby the police forces share information when sex offenders travel between the countries.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) described the agreement as another “baby step” in the right direction.

“The memorandum is going to deal with the issue of sex offenders moving from one country to another. It introduces a formal protocol between those police services. In that respect it’s welcome,” said ISPCC chief executive Paul Gilligan.

He said the problem was when sex offenders don’t inform police authorities of their travels.

“What can the Garda Síochána or the police services in Northern Ireland do if they do move from one jurisdiction to another?”

Last week, it emerged that one of Britain’s most wanted child sex offenders, Alexander Colin Dalgleish, had been living and working in Donegal. He had gone missing from Britain after failing to comply with restrictions on his movements.

Last month, convicted paedophile Paul Hunter Redpath had turned up in Dublin after breaching his probation conditions in the North.

“We have to discourage sex offenders from moving,” said Mr Gilligan. “Our biggest concern is that the Republic is being viewed as a safe haven. That might sound dramatic, but our systems are not as comprehensive as the ones in Northern Ireland and the UK.”

Norah Gibbons, director of advocacy at Barnardo’s, said they “very definitely welcomed” the agreement, but said “predatory sex offenders” were not going to obey all the rules.

Ms Gibbons called for the probation service to be given a much greater role in supervision of offenders, similar to the probation service in the North.

She said Barnardo’s wondered whether a “danger assessment” was conducted on each person on the Sex Offenders’ Register.

Speaking at the agreement signing yesterday, Mr McDowell said: “While the Garda Síochána and UK police forces have been exchanging this information for some time, this Memorandum of Understanding will put arrangements on a formal footing.

Mr Gilligan expressed concern at the lack of garda powers to take action against offenders.

A department spokeswoman said gardaí have access to information from Britain regarding offenders, including so-called ‘soft information’.

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