A new Memorandum of Understanding to ensure information on sex offenders who plan to travel between the UK and Ireland are shared between the relevant police forces was signed today in Belfast by Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker and Michael McDowell, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
In the UK and Ireland all offenders who are on the sex offenders register must inform the police of where and when they intend to travel abroad if it is over a certain length of time.
Today's agreement - the first of its type in the world - means that police will impart this information for all sex offenders who plan to travel between the two states.
Home Office Minister, Vernon Coaker said "The UK Government is committed to protecting the public and ensuring the effective management of the most dangerous offenders is a key part of our agenda.
There are already high levels of cooperation between UK and Irish police forces and the police frequently pass on relevant information when an offender plans to travel abroad. This memorandum sets out an important precedent so that the police will always know when a convicted sex offender is travelling between the two countries.
The UK and Ireland have some of the most sophisticated systems in the world for monitoring dangerous offenders in the community. We are continuing to work on similar agreements between us and other countries but they will need to develop their systems further for this to become a reality.
Today's agreement is an important step forward and demonstrates the commitment between us and Ireland to work together to monitor and supervise sex offenders, investigate crimes and ensure the public are protected."
The Tánaiste Michael McDowell said "This Memorandum of Understanding demonstrates the determination of the Irish Government to put arrangements in place to ensure that the whereabouts of registered sex offenders in the UK and Ireland are known to the police, even when they leave their own country.
While the Garda Síochána and UK police forces have been exchanging this information for some time, this Memorandum of Understanding will put arrangements on a formal footing.
I am confident that our police forces will use this Memorandum to ensure the safety of people in our countries."
Northern Ireland's Criminal justice Minister, David Hanson MP said "It is appropriate that the signing takes place in Northern Ireland given the uniqueness of the land border and its potential for exploitation by those wishing to evade the law.
The sharing of information on sex offenders will ensure that police forces notify colleagues in other jurisdictions, promptly and effectively and as a matter of course, when they are aware that a convicted sex offender who is subject to notification requirements is planning to travel to another jurisdiction.
The signing of the memorandum also gives a clear signal to those who would attempt to exploit national boundaries that both Governments speak with one voice .There is to be no hiding place for those who have offended in this way and seek to do so again by travelling between jurisdictions and flouting the law. This is what the memorandum of understanding is all about."
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) relates to information about everyone travelling between Ireland and the UK who is subject to sex offender notification requirements in their own jurisdiction. Its purpose is to ensure that information will be shared between police forces to protect the public from the risks presented by sex offenders and in the investigation of serious sexual offences. It covers any information necessary to achieve these purposes.
The MoU is part of the work undertaken following the Intergovernmental Agreement on North/South Co-operation on Criminal Justice Matters signed on behalf of the Irish and British Governments in July 2005. Under the Agreement, a Registered Sex Offender Advisory Group has been established consisting of representatives of An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Northern Ireland Office. As part of its work, this Group evaluates the potential for sharing information, examining the registration criteria in both jurisdictions for sex offenders and identifying areas for further co-operation. The MoU will help in protecting the public from the risks presented by sex offenders.
27 November 2006
NOTES TO EDITORS
1. The agreement will cover the whole of the United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) and Ireland.
2. In the UK, everyone on the sex offenders register has to notify the police if they intend to travel abroad for more than three days. Where the police consider the offender should not be able to travel, they can take action to stop them. Offenders who have received a caution or conviction for a sexual offence overseas can also be put on the sex offenders register.
3. In Ireland, offenders have to notify the Garda Síochána if they intend to travel abroad for more than seven days, and registered sex offenders from abroad must notify the Garda Síochána if they reside in the State for more than seven days.