Report: Sex offenders system restrictive

A multi-agency body set up to manage convicted sex offenders in the community can only monitor a small percentage of them because of data protection limitations and lack of legal powers.

The leaders of the unit — which brings together the gardaí, the Probation Service, and the HSE — said it was “restricted” in what it can achieve. They also said their biggest problem was the lack of accommodation to house offenders.

The Sex Offender Risk Assessment and Management system was set up to manage the risk posed to the community by convicted sex offenders, especially those assessed as high profile and/or posing a high risk of reoffending.

A report published by the National SORAM Committee provides little- publicised details on convicted sex offenders, which combines those who currently are subject to reporting requirements to gardaí, those no longer subject, and those in custody. It shows:

* The total number of convicted sex offenders has increased from around 1,500 in 2008 to 2,400 in 2013;

* The number of offenders on reporting requirements has risen from around 1,100 to almost 1,300;

* Only 12% of the 1,300 (156) are subject to supervision by the Probation Service.

Writing in the Irish Probation Journal, the authors said SORAM was working. Offenders were being managed on a “day-to-day basis” and there was “effective communication” between all the agencies.

“SORAM pools resources that previously worked in parallel and were largely disconnected,” the report said.

However, the report — written by Mark Wilson of the Probation Service, retired detective superintendent John McCann, and Robert Templeton of the HSE — said there were serious structural problems.

“Without underpinning legislation, the SORAM model is limited to dealing with offenders who are both subject to the notification requirements of Part 2 of the Sex Offenders Act 2001 and under the supervision of the Probation Service,” said the report.

“Other sex offenders cannot be included due to data protection limitations. As such, the SORAM model is restricted in what it can achieve.”

The authors said the “most recurring and enduring barriers” to managing offenders in the community was the absence of accommodation for sex offenders.

“Indeed, for higher-profile or higher-need offenders — including those assessed as not capable or living independently — there continues to be serious public safety issues requiring resolution,” said the report.

The report said that, for SORAM to be effective at a local level, interventions targeting offender’s internal controls were needed. It said this included treatment, constructive daytime activities, measures to tackle social isolation as well as mental health and addiction issues.

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