Devon sex offender 'befriended children on Facebook'

A former Devon police officer has raised concerns a convicted sex offender has become friends with children on a social media site.

The unnamed woman said the man had befriended children and people connected with schools, on Facebook.

Devon and Cornwall Police said it was aware of the case and urged the individual to remove his profile.

The force also said it was looking to buy software that monitors sex offenders' computers.

The former officer said: "I felt alarmed. There is absolutely no way he should be using Facebook.

"If you went out there and asked the parents of one of those children that he friended on Facebook if they're happy and comfortable with that, I don't think they would be.

"It's the biggest playground in the world for young people and that's a really frightening concept."

Det Ch Insp Dave Thorne, of Devon and Cornwall Police, said each case was considered "individually" as to whether the person should be allowed to use social media sites.

"If what is being said in this case is true then I would agree that that wouldn't be appropriate for them [to be on Facebook], but it would be wrong of us to shut everybody's Facebook profile down," he said.

"What we're looking at introducing soon is a new piece of software which does enable us to remotely monitor sex offenders usage on the internet."

Profiles 'removed'

He said the software, loaded onto computers, enabled police to monitor all the applications and what images, words and phrases were being used. Currently, 11 out of 43 UK police forces use the system.

In a statement, Facebook said its rules "ban convicted sex offenders" and removed them "as quickly as possible" once reported.

But "we rely on users and the police to report any registered sex offenders (RSOs) using Facebook".

"This information is not shared proactively by government," it said. "We believe that this should change.

"Facebook would like to see Internet identifier information on RSOs securely shared with social networks so that we can remove RSOs from the site within a day, just as we do in the US."

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