Last week it was revealed that the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, changed his mind about the release of details relating to the whereabouts of sex offenders in the Glasgow area. This was brought about due to the actions of three housing associations, Blochairn in Royston, Craigdale in Castlemilk and Dunbritton in Dumbarton appealing the original decision by Mr Dunion to the Court of Sessions.
The housing associations claim they do not want to know where the sex offenders reside but want to test whether they are housed, as suspected by them, in ‘poorer housing’ rather than the more ‘up-market’ housing. To do this they have requested the entire first part of the postcode plus the first digit of the second (G99 9) which would bring the search area down to a few dozen properties. If this is really the case why ask for the extra digit?
There is a perfectly legal method for doing this, in line with Glasgow City Council and Strathclyde Police so why did they go down the FoISA route? My belief is that they wish to get the housed sex offenders out of their housing association areas rather than have them in their neighbourhoods. This would obviously be very popular with their tenants and would also raise the perceived value of their stock. But what are the costs?
About 4 years ago, I was involved with the outing of sex offenders by The Scottish Sun after a pen-drive was ‘found’ in a car park by a member of the public with the names and addresses of all the housed sex offenders in Glasgow, together with that of their victims. The Sun then ran a witch hunt and photographed these people and published their ‘beast of the day’ in the paper. We started to see vigilantes on the streets trying to get into their homes and destroying their property, there were even some of them attacked!
In no way do I condone what these people had done but we had to move them securely for a few reasons. One was to protect them from the lynch-mobs that were out to get them, second to protect GHA’s property and thirdly to ensure we knew where they were and could still monitor them. It is this last point that nobody thinks about when they start these ridiculous campaigns to out where sex offenders live.
Just think, the authorities and housing associations know where these people are housed and are able to keep an eye on them to ensure they are not transgressing again. They are able to track their movements and also securely move them to another property should the need arise and also ensure they are not housed anywhere near their victim(s). Again it is this last point that needs to be considered if we are to protect the innocent victims from further abuse or fear!
If we get the vigilante lunch mobs starting again these people will just run and then they are out of the monitoring loop and we have no idea where they are. We cannot ensure the safety of the victims any more, cannot ensure they are not re-offending and thus protect the general public. We therefore need to keep the information about where sex offenders are housed at a high level of ‘need to know’ to prevent any further actions being taken by them.
This is why I was very surprised to see three small housing associations requesting such detailed information as it will not take much to find out who and where these people are based on the information supplied. I also thought that the director of Blochairn Housing Association might have known better as he was involved the last time we had this problem and I had to explain to him the seriousness of releasing this sort of information outwith MAPPA regulations. At GHA we set up a system that allowed the details of the location and movement of sex offenders to be monitored at the highest level and under a need to know basis. This system that these housing associations are setting up is a free for all, let everyone know system and I cannot believe they will not be publishing information about his findings. I believe that his application for getting the information to test the theory that sex offenders are housed in poorer quality housing is seriously flawed and that they may well be responsible for the return of vigilantes to the streets of Royston, Castlemilk and Dumbarton and the loss of intelligence on the location of sex offenders will prove to be disastrous.
I would urge anyone who reads this to consider my argument that sex offenders need monitoring and that by releasing details on the neighbourhoods they are in will result in them being driven underground to return to their perverted ways unhindered……..