More than 50 West Midlands sex offenders on the run – and police have no idea where they are
More than 50 convicted sex offenders from across the West Midlands are at large – including two who have been on the run for more than a decade, according to official police figures.
Forces in the West Midlands, Staffordshire and West Mercia told the Express & Star they do not know the whereabouts of 55 sex offenders.
The figures include paedophiles and rapists and show the region has the second highest number of missing sex offenders in England.
Staffordshire Police has lost track of five sex offenders, while West Midlands Police said 46 had gone missing, with five going on the run since the start of this year.
West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police said four were at large, including one who has been missing for 11 years.
West Midlands Police are also trying to track down a sex offender who disappeared in 2006.
- Express & Star comment: Tracing sex offenders is top priority
The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, have prompted concerns over child safety, with politicians on all sides urging police to redouble their efforts to snare registered sex offenders.
Lib Dem campaigner Sarah Quarmby said: “Hearing that 55 sex offenders have gone missing should keep every parent up at night. They could be anywhere from on the run, fled abroad or even grooming another child.
“The UK has some of the toughest powers in the world to deal with sex offenders, yet it appears the cops are not using the powers they have. Some of the most dangerous people in society have been lost.
“There is no reason we should lose people. The police are failing.”
Eddie Hughes, the Conservative MP for Walsall North, said: “Fundamentally, this is not a huge number of offenders to keep tabs on, so you would think the police would be able to allocate the resources required to track them down.”
West Midlands Police refused to name those missing, insisting that doing so would ‘breach a third party’s data protection rights’.
Chief Inspector Nicola Court from West Midlands Police Integrated Offender Management Unit, said: "There is no greater priority for West Midlands Police than protecting the most vulnerable from harm.
“Of the 4380 registered sex offenders within the West Midlands Police area there are 46 who have not informed us of their change of address leading us to classify them as ‘missing’. This represents a very small percentage of those we robustly manage on a daily basis.
“There are active investigations in place to trace all of these 46 offenders and enquiries carried out lead us to believe 14 of these have left the country and are currently living abroad. Enquiries around each of these individuals are on-going and we are actively working with other police forces to locate them.
“Detectives who specialise in monitoring sex offenders work closely and continuously with partner agencies such as Probation, Housing, the Court Service and Department of Work and Pensions.
“Our strategy for finding those people who have not registered with us, as ordered by the courts, is regularly reviewed to ensure we are maximising every opportunity to find them and arrest them.
“As a matter of course, details of all missing resisted sex offenders are circulated on the Police National Computer and to all forces and law enforcement agencies."
Carl Ratcliffe, Head of Public Protection for Staffordshire Police, said: “All necessary investigations and procedures are in place and conducted to trace any individual that goes missing or doesn’t comply with their reporting requirements.
“All offenders are subject to thorough and regular risk assessment and multi-agency monitoring and this is carefully considered when deciding what approach to take.
“Along with our partners we consider the need for public safeguarding and would not hesitate to take appropriate action where required.”
- Since responding to the FOI request, Staffordshire Police says three of the sex offenders on its missing list have been located, bringing the number at large down to two.