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Last Updated: Monday, 24 October 2005, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
'Weaknesses need to be tackled'
Marchers
Mark Cummings' family has called for a change in the law
Urgent action is needed to address the "many weaknesses" in the sex offenders registration scheme, according to the expert who reviewed the system.

Professor George Irving was asked to compile his report after the murder of Glasgow schoolboy Mark Cummings.

He produced 36 proposals which he hoped would make such crimes "a little more avoidable" in future.

"This... we owe to Mark Cummings and other young victims who have gone before and tragically since," he said.

Stuart Leggate had previous convictions for sexually assaulting children and was on the sex offenders' register when he murdered Mark.

Prof Irving, a former social work director, admitted that no system could provide absolute protection from predatory sex offenders.

Increasing public protection and responding to public concerns have remained at the forefront of this review
Prof George Irving

"Nonetheless the focus of my report is on greater public and individual protection by more efficient risk management and more efficient risk assessment," he said.

He said several improvements had been made to the sex offenders registration scheme since its introduction in 1997, but that "many weaknesses" remained.

"These need to be urgently addressed to help police and social services monitor and assess these individuals more effectively and of course prevent future tragic incidents such as the murder of Mark Cummings," he said.

"Indeed, increasing public protection and responding to public concerns have remained at the forefront of this review."

He said one of the gaps in the system was that police officers had no specific powers to require sex offenders to undertake risk assessment or monitor their conduct or activities in the community.

Risk assessment

Prof Irving, of Glasgow Caledonian University, said it was "totally inadequate" that registered sex offenders only had to provide their name, date of birth, address and National Insurance number.

He said it should be obligatory for sex offenders to participate in risk assessment by making themselves available for interview, which they can refuse to do at present.

Stuart Leggate
Stuart Leggate was jailed for murdering Mark Cummings

Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson asked for more work to be carried out on that proposal and the suggestion that the time limit for notifying changes of information should be reduced from three days to 24 hours.

However, she did accept the majority of the recommendations, including giving police the power to enter an offender's home to monitor their activities and check the details on the register.

Professor Irving also suggested the creation of a fast-track system to enable the courts to consider whether to amend a sexual offences prevention order on application from a chief constable.

And he said every police force should review the strengths and weaknesses of its current operational arrangements.

Disclosure power

He also came down against the blanket disclosure of information about convicted sex offenders, which was being demanded by Mark Cummings' family.

"But I firmly believe by adapting and by careful use of disclosure power in a focused way, then we can build up an effective warning system which will facilitate very prompt regulation and management of the activities of sex offenders and thereby enhance public protection," he said.

This would see information being passed to relevant third parties, such as employers, landlords or leisure managers, if the individual's activities were causing concern.


SEE ALSO:
Sex offender alert system planned
24 Oct 05 |  Scotland


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