Sexual offenders living in Dungannon and South Tyrone

NINE convicted sex offenders are living in the Dungannon and South Tyrone area.

Statistics released by the Northern Ireland Office, prompted by a Parliamentary question tabled by Upper Bann MP David Simpson, have revealed that six Category 1 or low risk offenders, and three Category 2 or medium risk individuals, are residing in the local community.

The data, which covers every police region across Northern Ireland, showed Dungannon was ranked fifth lowest for sex offender occupation, out of 29 command areas.

Moyle and Cookstown had the lowest numbers resident at 5, South Belfast topped the table with 116.

Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Tom Elliott says the figures have surprised him, but he's urged the public not to be unduly alarmed.

He said the publication of the statistics "will make people more aware and help them up their vigilance, but we don't want to stir up unnecessary fear".

"There are known paedophiles living in certain areas and I've found the police, Probation Board (and other agencies) are doing the best they can but they don't have the resources (to monitor them). People don't know who's living where."

Caution

Mr Elliott said he didn't have full confidence in the MASRAM strategy - the multi agency approach involving the PSNI, Probation Board, Prison Service and Social Services, adopted for the assessment and management of sex offenders in the community.

And he called for tougher measures to enable the authorities to keep watch on individuals who may pose a risk to the general public.

"I'd like to see a different process, such as some sort of tagging", he suggested.

Reacting to the figures a spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre says serious questions have to be asked.

"Why are there still more (of these people) walking our streets and putting our children and families at risk than there are incarcerated for their crimes?

Measures

"This is even more reason for the people of Northern Ireland to pressurise their MLA's to instate Megans Law, the scheme adopted in America for community notification.

"These statistics represent known offenders - what about the many more who go unreported and unprosecuted?"

But Inspector Brian Swann from Dungannon PSNI says police are working hard to keep the community as safe as possible.

"The Dungannon community should feel reassured that the police are using the law to protect them and their interests in the management of sex offenders. All sex offenders are monitored and visited on a regular basis so that we as a police service are content that these individuals are abiding by the conditions of the offenders' register. Any breach of the register we take very seriously and we respond as such with the necessary action."

The publication of the figures comes in the wake of an arson attack on a house occupied by convicted rapist Eamon Foley who's living in Killeter near Gortin. The property was targetted last Tuesday night.

48 year old Foley has served half of a 16 year sentence for raping pensioner Mary Anne McLaughlin in 1999.