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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 15:31 GMT
Q&A: Monitoring sex offenders
The government has been urged by children's charity Barnardo's to use lie detector tests and satellite tracking to monitor sex offenders.

What are the current arrangements for monitoring sex offenders and how could new technology strengthen supervision?

Who is on the sex offenders register?

The register contains the details of all those convicted of a sexual crime in England and Wales.

The 1997 Sex Offenders Act made it obligatory for people convicted of a range of sexual crimes to register with the police within 14 days of their release from prison, which was amended to 72 hours in 2003.

Figures released in October show that, in 2005, there were 29,973 registered sex offenders in the UK.

How are they monitored?

Sex offenders in England and Wales are monitored by agencies including police, probation and social services under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (Mappa).

They are subjected to strict licence conditions on release from prison, and can be sent back to jail if they fail to co-operate. They can even face covert surveillance by detectives.

Why is Barnardo's calling for lie detectors and satellite tracking to monitor sex offenders?

It says probation staff need more help in assessing the risks posed by sex offenders when they are released from jail.

A Panorama programme earlier this month found that sex offenders staying at bail hostels had gained access to children.

Barnardo's says public confidence needs to be restored after a series of examples of offenders committing crimes when supposedly under supervision.

The charity says the use of polygraphs and satellite tracking could strengthen safe supervision.

How could satellites and lie detectors improve tracking?

In a pilot study in the North East, sex offenders were fitted with electronic ankle tags with a wireless connection to a mobile phone, carried at all times, which sends back co-ordinates to a tracking station.

The information is shown as location trails on a computer screen map, down to a level of detail which shows on which side of the street and in which direction a person is moving.

Lie detector tests have been suggested to back up other ways of ensuring people are where they are supposed to be.

Human rights groups have questioned the effectiveness of lie detector tests.

But Barnardo's says the introduction of new technology is a preferable option to proposals for Sarah's Law, which would allow parents to learn of registered sex offenders living in their area.

Critics of the proposed law - named after Sarah Payne, eight, who was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000 - say releasing the information could drive offenders underground, making it more difficult to track them.


SEE ALSO
Doubts over British Megan's Law
23 Jul 06 |  UK Politics
Paedophile policy 'not media-led'
20 Jun 06 |  UK Politics
'Sarah's Law' calls made
18 Jun 03 |  Cornwall

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