HOW many more lives must be lost through the inadequate control of known – and highly dangerous – sex offenders before the Government acts?
This question has even more urgency after a catalogue of failings that led to the murder of 14-year-old Zuzanna Zommer were revealed as it was confirmed that 700 registered sex offenders have been untraceable for more than 12 months.
As pilot schemes for Claire’s Law are introduced to enable individuals to ask the police about their partner’s history of violence or sexual offence at the behest of Leeds campaigner Michael Brown whose daughter was a victim of domestic abuse, it is clear that existing safeguards are only as effective as the staff enforcing them.
This is born out by Zuzaana’s murder in 2007. She and her family, migrants from Poland, had been befriended by near neighbour Michael Clark who had refused – ironically on the grounds of safety – to return to his home town of Scunthorpe after being released from custody.
Yet a damning Serious Case Review confirms that Clark – who was sentenced to 22 years in prison between the ages of 20 and 40 – was not the subject of a Risk Management Plan because of inadequate communication procedures between the West Yorkshire and Humberside forces, despite the latter having promised to learn lessons following its involvement in the Soham tragedy nearly a decade ago.
This is an inexcusable failure given that Clark had been placed on the Sex Offender register in 2004, had breached licence conditions on various releases from custody and had, according to today’s report, “a long history of offending, with his offences being primarily violent and sexual towards women”.
The reason given in the report for Zuzanna’s murder – “ineffective communication” – offers no consolation to the teenager’s family. If those tasked with ensuring effective systems of communication between public agencies cannot do so, they should not hold such positions of responsibility.
Today’s report implores Home Secretary Theresa May to review the robustness of existing checks. She must do so without further delay, while also promising that no sex offender is ever released from custody without proper monitoring arrangements being in place – and signed off by every relevant agency.