» Friday, January 20, 2006

Sex Offenders

Asked if it was right that 150 of the 210 people who were given a partial ban on List 99 had a record of sex offences, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that he did not recognise that figure. The important thing was that since 2000, the partial ban had gone as part of the tightening of the process that the Government had undertaken.

Asked that if the 150 figure was not recognised, what figure was recognised, and was there a figure out of the 210 that were sex offences, rather than fraud or other offences, the PMOS said there was an issue about what happened before the new procedures came in 2000. The whole point of going back through the cases, and the new panel would do this, was precisely to investigate those cases, and to see whether there was any cause for concern. The PMOS said it was better to not try and put an artificial figure, and that the process was allowed to take place. The important thing that Ruth Kelly announced yesterday was that not only did she clarify the position of what had happened since 1997, but also that she had set out where there were concerns which the police were pursuing. Finally, she had set out a procedure to review cases that had happened under previous administrations.

Asked if the Government knew that figure, i.e. was it the case that it was not yet known what proportion of the 210 were sex offences, or was it the case that the figure was not known, but the Government did not want to tell people they did not know, as it might appear inflammatory, the PMOS said that the whole spirit of what the Government did yesterday was that we gave as much information as we reliably could. Investigations were ongoing, and it was better that those investigations were allowed to continue. The PMOS said it was better that we spoke with knowledge, rather than speculation.

Asked again that it was not known at the moment, the PMOS said the journalist should check with the DFES, and we had said yesterday what we knew.

Put that if the 210 cases had not been looked at and if that was correct, what sorts of grounds would people be given a partial ban for, the PMOS replied that in terms of partial cases, Ministers did not now impose a partial ban, as that was a relic of the old system. What we therefore needed to do, and this was something that the review team would be doing, was to go through all those cases to check whether there were any problems. The PMOS said he was not going to get involved in speculation about figures, as it was not helpful.

Asked if was technically correct to say at this point that we still did not know exactly how many sex offenders were working in schools in England and Wales, the PMOS replied that as he had said yesterday, what the panel would do would be to go through cases which were dealt with under previous administrations.

Asked again about the numbers, the PMOS said again that he was not going to get involved with speculation about what the panel would discover. What people could be sure about, however, was that the issue was being dealt with.

Put that was it really the case that it had not been possible over a fortnight to go back and look at the "handful" of cases, the PMOS replied that the journalist was talking about a system that had been in place for decades. Therefore, there was a need to go through that system and methodically check through it. People would be much more impressed by the fact that we were making the efforts to go through those cases and deal with the issues methodically, rather than trying to suggest that this was a matter that could be dealt with quickly. This was a system that had been tightened considerably since 1997, but it was also a system that was not computerised. That took time.

Briefing took place at 9:00 | Search for related news

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