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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 July, 2004, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Panel scrutiny for sex offenders
Anti-paedophile protests
Anti-paedophile protests in 2000 led to panels in their current form
Figures released on Wednesday on England and Wales' "highest risk" violent and sex offenders show that only 1% re-offended.

BBC News Online looks at the multi-agency panels to which these offenders are referred when released from prison.

Multi-Agency Public Protection Panels were introduced in April 2001 to manage the risk posed by "the worst" violent and sex offenders living in the community.

Such offenders, dubbed the "critical few", include registered sex offenders, other sex offenders and violent criminals and abusers.

Other cases referred to panels included those deemed "exceptional" because of their notoriety or sensitivity.

The panel draws up a list of things to do in order to supervise [offenders] in the community and ensure that they don't reoffend
BBC's Danny Shaw
Panels are made up of probation and police officers, together with social services and housing association staff.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said it was "a good thing" these arrangements were now in place.

He said: "Essentially what happens is that the most dangerous and violent criminals are monitored closely by the people on these panels.

"The panel then draws up a list of things to do in order to supervise them in the community and ensure that they don't reoffend."

The sort of things that are decided at panel level include specifying particular areas that a person may or may not be allowed to go to, like schools or playgrounds
Home Office
A Home Office spokesman told News Online it was precisely the panel's multi-agency input that enabled members to draw up an in-depth plan to deal with the worst offenders.

He said: "The sort of things that are decided at panel level include specifying particular areas that a person may or may not be allowed to go to, like schools or playgrounds.

"Also, the panel will decide if the offender needs to have regular meetings with certain people like a dedicated officer.

"They may be given a specific programme that they have to adhere to."

Parents' concerns

Another facet to the panels, only introduced in April of this year, is in the involvement of members of the public, in Home Secretary David Blunkett's words, "to manage paedophiles in the community".

The seeds of the plan were planted in response to concerns raised by the parents of murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne.

Sarah's killing in July 2000 provoked a public outcry and the News Of The World, backed by the Payne family, led a campaign for public access to the Sex Offenders' Register.

The government, on the advice of the police, resisted this option because they feared it could increase vigilantes and drive offenders out of the reach of professionals.

But out of Mr Blunkett's talks with the Paynes came the idea of community representation on the panels.

Public protection

Two lay advisers on each panel communicate any public concerns about sex and violent offenders to the rest of the panel.

Their role includes the scrutiny of the criminal justice professionals and trying to improve public protection where possible.

The lay members usually have experience of community work and sometimes child protection.

They are not given identities or addresses of offenders, only background information on their criminal record and their estimated risk.


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