ALMOST a third of all Argyll and Bute’s registered sex offenders are living in Helensburgh and the surrounding area, the Advertiser can reveal.

According to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request, 13 registered sex offenders (RSOs) are currently living in communities in the G84 postcode area, covering Helensburgh, Rhu, Shandon, Garelochhead and the Rosneath peninsula.

Nine of their convictions related to offences committed against children under the age of 16, while other offences included rape, indecent assault and lewd and libidinous practices and behaviour.

A total of 42 cases within the Argyll and Bute area are subject to sex offender notification requirements and are managed by Police Scotland under the multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) system.

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All the offenders in the G84 area are male, with five aged 65 and over and three aged between 56 and 64.

Eight received custodial sentences for their crimes, while six are on the register indefinitely.

In the wider Argyll and West Dunbartonshire division of Police Scotland, there are a total of 202 RSOs, including 146 living in the community and 56 in custody or in hospital, as of July 2019.

The figure is the second lowest of all Police Scotland divisions – however the number of RSOs in Scotland continues to rise, standing at 5,764 in 2019, compared to 5,371 in 2018 and 5,190 in 2017.

Meanwhile, the number of sexual crimes in Argyll and Bute continues to increase year-on-year – making up 7.5 per cent (170) of all crimes committed in the region in 2017-18 – and the national figure is at its highest level in almost half a century.

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Sexual crimes in Scotland, including rape and sexual assault, were up 13 per cent in 2017/18 compared to the previous year, from 11,092 to 12,487.

Part of the reason is the enactment of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016, introduced in July 2017, which accounts for new crimes of disclosing or threatening to disclose an intimate image.

Sexual crimes made up five per cent of all crimes in Scotland in 2017/18 and have increased every year since 2008/09, according to Scottish Government statistics.

Last month, 51-year-old Jeremy Mason, from Helensburgh, was spared a jail sentence at Dumbarton Sheriff Court despite pleading guilty to the possession of 17,000 sickening indecent images of children.

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Helensburgh’s MSP Jackie Baillie said: “It is always alarming to hear that there are registered sex offenders in our community but the register was introduced to give us greater knowledge about the people who commit sexual crimes and their whereabouts.

“The register makes it a legal requirement for people who have been convicted of sexual crimes to notify the police in person within three days of conviction or release from prison.

“This allows the police, prison service, local authorities and social work to monitor them when they are back in the community.

“In 2006 I chaired the Justice 2 sub committee in the Scottish Parliament which investigated how we dealt with child sex offenders and how they were monitored in communities.

“The committee made 33 recommendations which we believed would strengthen legislation. All bar one of the recommendations was implemented by the Scottish Government at the time.

“The monitoring of sex offenders is a very resource intensive process and we need to be sure that there are sufficient police to do the job.”

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A Police Scotland spokesman added: “Protecting the public is a top priority for Police Scotland. In Scotland, multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA) provides a comprehensive response to a complex issue, using professional assessment and management to properly target resources at those who pose a risk to the public.

“Police Scotland works in partnership with a number of agencies through MAPPA to ensure that all Registered Sex Offenders are robustly managed within the community.

“While we can never eliminate risk entirely, we want to reassure communities that all reasonable steps are being taken to protect them.

“Sex offenders are managed in the community under the MAPPA which involve the police service, local authorities, the NHS, Scottish Prison Service and other partners.

“The purpose of MAPPA is to pro-actively manage the risk posed by offenders who have come through the judicial and criminal justice system and by virtue of their sentence are required to comply with the notification requirements placed on them by the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

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“A number of measures can be put in place to manage offenders in the community and these are monitored by dedicated police officers and partner organisations.

“Keeping people safe is our main priority in all cases.”