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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Sex offender register reform call
Deputy Chief Constable Robert Ovens
Deputy Chief Constable Robert Ovens made the call
People accused of sexual offences could be placed on the sex offenders register before they appear in court, a senior police officer has suggested.

Deputy Chief Constable Robert Ovens of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos) said it was an idea which should be explored.

There have been calls for reforms after the murder of schoolboy Rory Blackhall.

Simon Harris, whose body was found by officers investigating Rory's death, had faced several sex abuse charges.

The 37-year-old appeared at Linlithgow Sheriff Court in February accused of abusing three girls between 1993 and 2000.

February 28: Simon Harris appears in court charged with lewd and libidinous behaviour. Bail granted
August 18: Rory goes missing
August 21: Rory found dead
August 22: Simon Harris fails to attend court hearing. Arrest warrant granted
August 28: Simon Harris found dead at home

Mr Harris was released on bail, but failed to turn up in court on 22 August - the day after 11-year-old Rory's body was found in woods in Livingston.

A warrant was issued for Mr Harris' arrest after he missed the court date, but police said they were unaware that such a step had been taken. His body was found on Sunday.

It has emerged that staff at St John's Hospital in Livingston had reported Mr Harris to police two days before they visited his home.

On Friday, 26 August, accident and emergency staff had alerted managers to a man who matched a description which detectives had just issued. Simon Harris had turned up at the hospital on Monday, 22 August, the day after Rory's body was found.

It is reported that he was in an agitated state and had cuts to his face.

A spokesman for St John's Hospital said officers came and took statements from staff on the Friday.

Rory Blackhall
Rory went missing after being dropped off for school

The case has prompted calls for a change to the bail system and the sex offenders register, which only contains the names of people who have been convicted.

Mr Ovens, who speaks on sex offender issues for Acpos, said it might be time for a re-think.

"There is certainly a need to ensure that anyone who is subject to an investigation for a sexual offence and has been charged, that all the agencies are working together to share information and to make sure that any risk posed by that individual is managed properly and minimised to the wider public," he said.

"Questions as to whether they should be placed on the register is something which needs to be explored, even if that is only on a temporary basis."

The Scottish Executive said an announcement was due "very soon" on bail, sex offenders in the community and court reform.

Police guard the Camps Rigg house
Mr Harris' body was found at a house in Livingston

First Minister Jack McConnell said these proposals would be reviewed in the light of Rory's murder.

Former Grampian chief constable Ian Oliver said the suggestion of placing suspects on the register before they were convicted was "fraught with difficulty".

He added: "The problem is, we don't have a national criminal justice system.

"In some respects, and without levelling any criticism, one is sometimes inclined to the view that we are still in the age of the quill pen as opposed to the age of the computer as far as the interchange of information is concerned between the courts and other services that have an interest - not just the police."

Watch Raymond Buchanan's report from Livingston

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