Thirty nine police forces have released figures that 394 sex offenders whereabouts are unknown. This figure may sound alarming but what is the true context of the statistics?

When an individual is convicted of sex offences they normally automatically have to sign on the sex offender's register. This means they have to tell the police where they live and sleep.

The reason for the requirement is to monitor sex offenders and stop them reoffending.

An example is if an offender moved into a house with vulnerable people (such as children or vulneable adults). The police would be able to make enquiries at this address, find this information out and make appropriate safeguards. This may be something as simple as telling the occupant of the address of the qualifying conviction.

A natural reaction to these figures is shock and concern. After all these offenders may well be dangerous individuals.

These feelings need to be balanced against the the fact that the percentage of offenders whose whereabouts are unknown must is very small. According to Ministry of Justice figures there are 43,644 persons on the register equating to roughly less than 1% being unaccounated for. 

My own professional experience is that many breaches are technical. They involve individuals that are disorganised and lead chaotic lives. Others I suspect just want to lead a normal life without the embarrassment of restrictions placed on them through notification.

My final thought is that the long arm of the law is never far away from tapping offenders on the shoulder. These individuals should do the decent thing and hand themselves in. This factor could help keep any sentence to minimum.

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