Two North East police forces refuse to give details of missing sex offenders

By Amy Stark, Abby Watts & Samantha Spowart

Two police forces in the North East refused to provide details of missing sex offenders claiming the information was ‘personal’.

SR News sent Freedom of Information requests (FOI) to three North East police forces: Northumbria, Cleveland and Durham Constabulary.

The FOI asked for the name, last known location and original crime that had been committed by any missing sex offenders within the police force areas.

Registered sex offenders are required to provide details of their home address to police so they can keep track of their whereabouts.

Northumbria Police have three registered sex offenders within their area who have vanished from their addresses, while Cleveland Police and Durham Constabulary have one, the FOI has revealed.

Both Northumbria and Cleveland police forces denied the release of the information to SR  News, saying “it would reveal personal information, which would breach data protection rules”.

They also claimed “it would impede on law enforcement”, as it would “be likely to prejudice” the prevention or detection of crime.

In response to not providing the information, a spokesperson for Northumbria police said: “Northumbria Police follows national guidelines on releasing details of missing sex offenders.

“However, all missing sex offenders are risk-assessed regarding the danger they may pose to members of the public and serious consideration is given to publicity for those offenders who are deemed to pose a risk of serious harm.”

A Cleveland Police spokesperson said: “The requested information is not being released due to the legislation under Section 31(1)(a)(b) Law Enforcement and Section 40 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act. We are unable to comment any further.”

However, in the initial responses to the FOI’s both Northumbria and Cleveland police forces said they were also rejecting to share the information under S40, Personal information.

We contacted the Government Cabinet office but they also refused to comment on whether the information should be released, saying “they could not comment on individual cases”.

Likewise, the Home Office, in charge of all police forces in the UK, would not comment, claiming “it doesn’t fall within the remit of the Home Office to comment on right to reject an FOI”.

While Northumbria and Cleveland refused to release the information, Durham Constabulary provided the details of the registered sex offender who had gone missing from their area.

The police force provided the required information after the first request and said: “We are very keen to ensure that we are tackling issues which matter to you in your community.”

Durham police force has one missing registered sexual offender named Ian Donlan, formally of Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

Picture by: Northern Echo/missing registered sexual offender named Ian Donlan, formally of Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

He is wanted for sex offender registration offences and failing to appear at Durham Crown Court for offences in relation to the possession of pornography.

It is suspected that Dolan may have fled to Thailand after being charged with possessing indecent images of children and extreme animal pornography.

Critics have said that the human rights of offenders have been put before those of ordinary members of the public.

NSPCC spoke out on behalf of children who could be at risk of missing sexual offenders.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Families need to know if there are individuals in their area who pose a risk to children.

“The Child Sex Offenders Disclosure (CSOD) scheme allows parents and others to ask police for details if they suspect someone might harm their children.”

The NSPCC obtained figures which found there is an average of just one member of police staff for every 50 offenders and the number of dangerous individuals on the register is increasing yearly.

The charity added: “So it seems this is an area of work that is chronically under-resourced.”

“The vast majority of offenders, including those who have committed child sex offences, get just one police visit a year after they’ve been released from prison, based on current public protection guidelines. So there are ample opportunities for them to go missing.

“The police need to be proactive in empowering communities to protect vulnerable children.”

A survey released in March revealed that 396 registered sex offenders have absconded nationally, including rapists and paedophiles.

In October 25, 2009, wanted sex offender, Peter Chapman, raped, kidnapped and murdered Darlington teenager Ashleigh Hall.

Chapman, 33, was wanted by Merseyside police on charges of arson, theft and failing to comply with the terms of his sex offenders’ license.

The sex offender’s car was flagged up 16 times by Automatic Number Plate Recognition across Durham, North Yorkshire and Cleveland police forces.

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