05/09/2008

Sex Offenders On Ministerial Agenda

Amid high level discussions on the devolution of policing and justice to the Stormont Assembly, associated matters are already being routinely reviewed by MLAs.

NI Children's Ministers the DUP MLA Jeffrey Donaldson and Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly met with NIO Minister Paul Goggins this week to discuss ways of improving in the management of sex offenders who prey on the young and vulnerable - and how to do it best on both sides of the border.

The Ministers met with Mr Goggins, whose department has responsibility for the policy on protecting the public from the risk posed by sex offenders in the community, to discuss initiatives for maximising arrangements for protection of children on both sides of the border.

They welcomed the 'scoping exercise' being carried out to examine any legislative loopholes which may exist as well as non legislative differences which may exist between sex offender management and risk assessment arrangements, north and south of the Irish border.
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The Ministers also said they are seeking to dovetail work on public awareness of child protection issues.

Stormont Junior Minister Donaldson said: "Whilst we recognise that there is currently good co-operation between police on both sides of the border, we are aware that there are some differences particularly in the area of legislative protection.

"We are committed to working with the NIO and Irish government to identify ways of ensuring and developing commonality of arrangements and protection in respect of sex offenders who move from one jurisdiction to another."

Also commenting, the North Belfast MLA and Junior Minister Gerry Kelly said: "This is an issue of intense public interest. It has been debated in the assembly and it is also a matter which has come before the North South Ministerial Council and the British Irish Council.

"Although policy responsibility for sex offender management presently rests with the NIO, we as Ministers with special responsibility for children feel we can play a part in ensuring every possible step is taken to ensure their safety," he said.

(BMcC/KMcA)

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