Scotland politics

MSP calls for new child sex offender management rules

Paul Martin
Image caption Paul Martin put forward a motion calling for better management of child sex offenders

An MSP has called for new measures to deal with child sex offenders, including a public database of high-risk individuals.

The Labour MSP for Glasgow Provan, Paul Martin, based his ideas on the system introduced in the United States known as Megan's Law.

A UK version was debated at Westminster, but ultimately rejected after a Home Office review.

But Mr Martin said an online database could help parents keep children safe.

The Megan's Law model was introduced in the United States in the name of Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old who was killed by a convicted sex offender.

Mr Martin said the murder of Scottish schoolboy Mark Cummings 11 years ago, by paedophile Stuart Leggate, should lead to a similar review of procedures in Scotland. Leggate lived in the same tower block as the boy's family.

'Campaigned tirelessly'

The motion before the Scottish Parliament commended the "courage and tenacity" of Mark's mother, Margaret Ann Cummings, who has "campaigned tirelessly" to change the management of serious sex offenders.

The MSP said: "I believe every parent has a right to know if a dangerous sex offender is living nearby so they can take reasonable steps to protect their children.

"The aim of the online registry would be to increase awareness of offenders thought to be at high risk of reoffending.

"It is important to emphasise that such a system would be part of a basket of measures used to manage sex offenders, protect communities and support victims of abuse.

"It would also be essential for any online registry to be closely monitored by the authorities and properly resourced."

'Top priority'

The proposals put forward by Mr Martin, which had cross-party support, include:

  • a review of sentencing tariffs for sex offenders
  • a requirement for convicted sex offenders to disclose information about their convictions during housing applications
  • an online public registry online containing information about high-risk offenders, searchable by postcode or name.

Housing minister Margaret Burgess told MSPs that the safety of the community was "the absolute priority", saying the government was looking "very carefully" at how sex offenders were monitored.

She said the government was open to ideas and suggestions on how to improve things further, and joined with all MSPs in praising Margaret-Ann Cummings for her work and campaigning on the issue.

Prior to the debate, a spokeswoman for the Scottish government said the monitoring of sex offenders in Scotland was "tougher than ever before".

She said: "We now have more measures in place to protect children than ever before, including the nationwide sex offender disclosure scheme which gives parents, carers and guardians the right to request information on any named individuals who may have regular unsupervised access to their child.

"We will not be complacent. Our top priority is keeping the public safe and we remain committed to the continual improvement of the management of offenders."

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