Sex offender cluster alarm

Dungannon Courthouse

Dungannon Courthouse

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Alarm bells have been rung over a cluster of sex offenders, who committed their offences overseas, now living in the South Tyrone area.

Latest figures released by the Department of Justice show that the South Tyrone and Fermanagh area has the highest number of sex offenders bound by restrictions after a previous sexual offence committed overseas was detected.

It is believed that the six individuals became known to police after they were arrested in this jurisdiction for a separate offence and police requested a criminal record from their native country.

Armagh and Down had the next highest total at three, while Belfast and Derry had two each.

DUP MLA Maurice Morrow, who requested the figures from the department, called them ‘worrying’.

“Anyone of any nationality who commits a sexual offence in Northern Ireland or UK is automatically bound by restrictions as a safeguarding mechanism”, he said.

“But the same does not apply to those entering the jurisdiction who have a previous conviction, and that is a concerning disparity.

“The only way an existing sexual conviction external to Northern Ireland can be detected is if the person is arrested for a separate offence in this jurisdiction (sexual or otherwise) and police/prosecution request a criminal record from a native or previous country.

“That is not only an unbalanced position, it is dangerous and open to abuse.”

The DUP peer said that the clustering of sex offenders presented a serious risk to the public.

“I am concerned in the continuance of offending, which much have occurred otherwise the original sexual offence would not have been discovered and bound by restrictions.

“The thrust of these matters is the prevention of further victims. The public should not be at risk and that must be at the forefront of managing all sex-offenders in the community.

“That said, they can only be managed if the offence is known, and as the law currently stands there is no obligation on non-nationals to declare any previous convictions committed outside Northern Ireland or the UK – sexual offences included.”