Birmingham & Black Country

Dozens of West Midlands sex offenders breach SOPO orders

A rape victim Image copyright PA
Image caption Victims say they are terrified their abusers will find them

Dozens of sex offenders across the West Midlands have breached court orders designed to protect the public from harm.

According to figures obtained by the BBC, there were 97 breaches of Sexual Offences Prevention Orders (SOPOs) in the West Midlands in 2013-14.

Experts say the system, which was introduced in 2003, is open to abuse by offenders and "confusing" for victims.

But police said the system reduced the risk posed by sex offenders.

'Addictive behaviour'

Nationally, 3,027 SOPOs were imposed in 2013-14, with 823 breaches during the same period.

The orders include restrictions on convicted sex offenders having, for example, unsupervised contact or communicating with children under 16, entering schools and play areas or informing the police about changes in address.

They can be imposed on conviction or when an offender leaves prison.

The police said any breach was investigated and, depending on its seriousness, the offender could be sent back to prison.

In the West Midlands (covering Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Mercia and West Midlands police forces) 311 SOPOs were issued in 2013-14.

However, one victim, Katie, said she was "terrified" her abuser would find her and would kill her "or whatever he'd threatened to do before".

Former detective and criminologist Mark Williams Thomas said the system was "really confusing".

"We need to make it very simple and very clear that if you've come out of jail, you're being monitored," he said.

"What we know about child sex offenders is that it's addictive behaviour, it's repetitive behaviour, it's an obsession and the likelihood is they will continue to reoffend."

Cumbria's Deputy Chief Constable Michelle Skeer, who manages policy on sexual offenders for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said she saw the police's awareness of the breaches as "very positive".

"It's proactive activity by our offender managers who work to make sure we have public protection out there in the community," she said.

"I think members of the public would like to see all registered sex offenders sent back to prison but we've got to be realistic.

"It depends on the level of the breach. Those individuals that go before the courts for a serious offence - in the main, they will be recalled back to prison."

  • For more on this story find BBC Inside Out in the West Midlands on the BBC iPlayer.

Related Topics

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites