HC Deb 15 June 1998 vol 314 cc11-2
8. Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove)

What plans he has to change the licensing arrangements when releasing sex offenders from gaol. [44250]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Ms Joyce Quin)

The Crime and Disorder Bill makes provision for the extended supervision of offenders following release from prison. The Bill gives the courts power to order additional supervision of up to 10 years in those cases. Offenders will be liable to be recalled to prison if they breach their licence conditions.

Miss Kirkbride

I thank the Minister for that answer, but I draw her attention to a case in my constituency in which a convicted paedophile was released into a small village community on a licence condition lasting only four months. I understand from a previous answer that the Government reject the Conservative option of optional life sentences, but will she consider whether there are, in those revolting cases of sexual abuse of children, grounds for licensing conditions on release to be extended as far as the natural life of the offender, when the relevant authorities consider that that person still poses a risk to the community?

Ms Quin

The hon. Lady has written to me about that case, and I have responded. She is to meet the agencies in her area which, I understand, are co-operating effectively to try to cope with the situation in respect of the individual concerned. Our proposals in the Crime and Disorder Bill will make the situation much more satisfactory. The sex offender orders are liable to apply to that individual if he appears to present a risk, and, indeed, to other individuals. The measures in the Bill, including the sex offender orders and extended supervision, will go a great way towards tackling the problem.

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey)

Some sex offenders have had two or three cases brought against them, served different sentences and been released back to the same community again and again. Will my hon. Friend examine those cases and what goes on in prison, and will she consider the issue of psychiatric care and the concerns about that?

Ms Quin

There are sex offender treatment programmes in prison which have been shown to be effective. We are conducting research into the way in which they have been carried out to discover what further lessons we can learn. It is also important that the prison and probation authorities work closely together. That is one reason behind the Government's prison and probation review: we believe that, in areas such as risk assessment and exchanging information about people who have been in prison and who are under supervision in the community, the two services could do a great deal in co-operation to reduce risk to the community.

Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

Further to what my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride) said, may I draw the Minister's attention to the case of Roger Gleaves, the self-styled bishop of Medway, who was convicted in the mid-1970s of offences against young people? Two months ago, he was sentenced to 15 years for further offences against young people. Is not the lesson of that case that information of past offences was available, but was not passed on, not only to organisations, but to the parents of the young people? If there was a central register, which I support, would the information on it be publicly accessible?

Ms Quin

The important point is for the agencies that manage cases to have the information and to share it between them. I accept the right hon. Gentleman's point that information has not always been transmitted between agencies as it should have been. Our approach, particularly the partnership approach, is aimed at improving the flow of information so that people do not fall through the net and the system works effectively in the public's interest.