Police take 13 Northamptonshire sex offenders off register...but won't reveal crimes 'because of GDPR'
Northamptonshire Rape Crisis say there is a risk dangerous individuals may reoffend
Thirteen convicted Northamptonshire sex offenders have successfully applied to be taken off a register used to monitor them - but police have refused to say why they were once jailed.
Each had been forced by law to notify Northamptonshire Police of their details on the sex offenders' register, limiting their freedom and allowing officers to keep tabs on their whereabouts.
Since 2019, having spent at least 15 years on the register, all 13 used a 2012 change in the law to win a bid to no longer have to register their details. During that time just five county sex offenders lost a similar bid.
Under Freedom of Information Act laws this newspaper asked the force to confirm, for all 13 successful applications, the offences which led to each criminal being placed on the register in the first place.
We did this because we felt it was important for the public to know if police had decided that some people convicted of the most serious sexual offences, including rape and child sex abuse, no longer required monitoring.
But Northamptonshire Police refused to provide the data, saying 'harm would be caused by any release'. They said the information involved 'personal data' and that it could not be released unless there was a strong public interest because it would breach GDPR and data protection rules.
Northamptonshire Police said they classed 'personal data' as anything that is biographical and/or affects the person's privacy. Convictions for criminal offences are heard in a public court.
The force routinely publicises a sex offender's conviction, such as the case of Rushden man Keith Wright who was jailed on Friday (November 19).
A force spokeswoman said: “Fighting crime and protecting people in Northamptonshire is our main priority and that includes the significant work we do to rigorously monitor the registered sex offenders we have living in the county.
“As part of an amendment to the Sexual Offences Act in 2012, a sex offender is able to apply for removal from the sex offenders’ register after fifteen years. This legislation came about after a lifetime registration was challenged by an offender in the European Court of Human Rights and the challenge was upheld.
“However, the decision to ratify a person being removed from the register is a very carefully considered one that involves an investigation into the offender’s original offence, their current circumstances, how they have behaved since being placed on the register and whether they pose a risk of reoffending. The victim of their original crime is also consulted as part of this process. If they satisfy the criteria set out, the application has to be signed off by the individual’s offender manager and then the force’s Detective Inspector of the MOSOVO team. It is then sent to a Detective Superintendent to consider and either sign off or decline.
“In the last two years, 13 people have been removed from the sex offenders 'register having submitted an application, which equates to 1.05 per cent of the total number of offenders managed. We will continue to focus our resources on the individuals that present the greatest risk of harm to the public in order to keep people safe.”
Under current sentencing guidelines, a sex offender would have to be jailed for 30 months or more to be put on the register for at least 15 years.
When sex offenders are made to join the register they have to provide information such as their address, bank account details, whether they live with a child and passport details.
They must re-register every year and inform police of any changes or travel plans. Details of an offender who is on the register could also be disclosed to others if it was deemed that there was a risk of sexual harm.
In 2019 five applications to be taken off the register were reviewed by Northamptonshire Police with three approved and two declined. In 2020 eight were approved and two were declined. In 2021, as of October 7, two had been approved and one had been declined.
Dawn Thomas, chief executive officer of Northamptonshire Rape Crisis, said there was a risk dangerous offenders may reoffend if they're not being monitored.
She said: "The sex offenders' register should function as a way to help protect the public from harm.
"With the large majority of sex offenders [who apply] removing themselves from the register, there is a risk that dangerous individuals who will no longer be adequately monitored by the appropriate authorities, may reoffend.
"Although we do not have access to the precise nature of each offence, perceived 'lower-level' sexual offences should be taken very seriously, can be harmful and traumatic for the victims and survivors, and are often indicative of toxic and misogynistic attitudes which form the basis of further serious sexual offending."