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Caution against kneejerk move to satellite tracking paedophiles

The Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW) has cautioned Scotland’s justice minister against a kneejerk move towards the use of satellite technology in tracking sex offenders after suggestions the approach could have prevented a paedophile’s attempt to murder a 60-year-old woman and attack her granddaughters

Minister Kenny MacAskill said he is “actively considering” the move after a review into the case of Ryan Yates, who attacked the unnamed woman less than a week after his release from prison.

SASW expressed concern, however, that the technology may not have been effective in all of the circumstances of the Yates case and said consideration should be given to whether the use of scarce resources on satellite tracking would be diverted from frontline staff and intensive monitoring work.

SASW’s Development Worker Tim Parkinson, previously a MAPPA co-ordinator and criminal justice social worker, said proponents of the technology need to consider that the tracking would only apply to the offender’s location, with no indication if there was a vulnerable victim in the vicinity. If the potential victim and their location was not already known, an offence could unknowingly be in progress while someone was being tracked.

Mr Parkinson said: “The issue of tracking is a lot more complex than it appears but it cannot itself prevent offences, only alert and prove retrospectively after they have happened. However, if that offence is against a person then it is clearly too late to prevent harm.

“There are a critical few cases where tracking might prove beneficial in enhancing an existing intensive risk management plan but only where specific other powers and resources are present.”

“Agencies have many other methods of monitoring and controlling high risk offenders, but it depends in each case whether the law in those circumstances allows them to be applied. These agencies have to decide if the diversion of resources from these methods into funding electronic tracking will be more effective across the board than their current powers.”

He added that a “critical issue” in improving tracking is the powers available to obtain Sex Offence Prevention Orders (SOPO) and Lifelong Restriction of Liberty Orders (LRO), which any resource, including tracking, may then be incorporated into.

Ryan Yates was sentenced on 30 April to life imprisonment for knife attack on the woman in an Aberdeen park. The incident happened five days after Yates was released from prison for another sex crime and only 48 hours after a court order was granted banning him from approaching women or children in public. The woman fought back to try to protect her granddaughters, who were aged two and eight.

The court heard how Yates had committed indecency crimes since he was 14, and was actually visited by Grampian Police on the morning of the attack, as part of ongoing monitoring efforts.