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'Most wanted' to be pictured online

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Scotland's police forces are preparing to use the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre's (CEOP) "Most Wanted" website.

The Scottish Executive has announced a formal contract to use the service between the Crown Office, Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland, CEOP Centre, and Crimestoppers, the charity that provides the website.

It makes clear that in certain situations the photographs of offenders, including high risk child sex offenders who have failed to comply with the requirements of the sex offenders register, can be published. This will involve careful consideration of the legal implications and, in particular, the potential prejudice to any future criminal proceedings.

Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill set out his support for the principle of publishing such photographs in a debate in Parliament during summer. He welcomed the formal contract as "a powerful new tool for the authorities to use to step up the protection of children in our communities".

MacAskill said: "I made clear to Parliament this summer that I believed it was appropriate to publish photographs of missing sex offenders on the internet and elsewhere.

"Today, thanks to the hard work and agreement of the police, the Crown and their partners at Crimestoppers and CEOP, Scotland has a powerful new tool for the authorities to use to step up the protection of children in our communities.

"Quite simply, if a sex offender goes missing and fails to comply, then they can expect the response to be swift, tough, and increasingly visible."

The deal will also see Scottish forces using the "most wanted" facility on the Crimestoppers website for non-sexual offenders. Grampian Police has already posted the images of an individual wanted on drug charges.

Assistant chief constable Iain MacLeod (Tayside), portfolio lead on offender management for the ACPOS Crime Business Area, said: "Permission to post photographs of such offenders has been granted by the Crown Office, but only where there is considered to be a danger posed to the public by the individual in question.

"Scottish Police Forces will continue to liaise with Crown Office prior to the release of such photographs in order to prevent the jeopardisation of any future court proceedings. The Scottish Police Service will utilise this facility with appropriate consideration for public safety."

The new arrangements with the CEOP and Crimestoppers websites build on a range of other actions that the police already take where an offender is missing from his registered address.

These include: sharing information with other agencies within agreed protocols to see if they had an alternative address; placing the offender's details on relevant police databases, alerting other forces to the fact that he is missing: updating the offender's record on the Violent and Sex Offenders Register to reflect the fact that they are missing; making enquiries with the Department for Work and Pensions, Inland Revenue, NHS, and overseas law enforcement agencies, to identify the whereabouts of the offender.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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