Presenter: Hello and welcome to Cambs Cops: Our Stories. A warning to begin today's podcast that it contains content some may consider only suitable for adults.
Understandably, nothing generates a stronger reaction from our social media followers than when we publish court results concerning paedophiles. Once convicted, paedophiles are placed on the Sex Offenders Register and are often subject to Sexual Harm Prevention Orders.
Today we speak to Detective Sergeant Kayleigh Smith from the Public Protection Unit to discuss how we manage offenders in the community as part of ongoing efforts to keep children safe.
It must be a really difficult job for the officers involved in this to deal with people who have had these kind of convictions in the past?
Detective Sergeant Kayleigh Smith: The team are very very resilient they have to be robust in the management, but they also have to have enough of a relationship with these nominals to be able to identify risk, to be able to ascertain when they're not quite telling us the truth or when there's something not quite right. So, it's not just a case of them you know going knocking on the door, having a quick look through their phone and leaving it at that, it's much more complex than that. Yeah, I mean I'd be lying if I said it didn't take its toll, of course it takes its toll, the officers are looking at you know the types of offences they've committed and having to manage that person and build some sort of professional relationship with them to sort of rehabilitate them, really that's our goal with probation to manage their risk robustly, but essentially probation's goal is to rehabilitate them into the community and we have to work together with probation to do that, but yeah you're right it definitely does take its toll at times.
Between ourselves and probation we ascertain what we think as professionals their risk is and then we set essentially a plan about how we're going to manage that risk. That plan can be anything from talking about how often we're going to visit them, or how often they need to see their probation officer, other tactical options that the police have, you know, for example checking their devices, looking at their associations and links to community clubs or groups and managing all the safeguarding around that depending on whatever the information is that comes to life from that particular nominal.
Presenter: Within the community there's a lot of concern obviously about sex offenders maybe particularly from parents and carers who are perhaps worried about their children, what would you say to those people who are perhaps a bit concerned about the fact that we've got sex offenders obviously living within our communities?
Detective Sergeant Kayleigh Smith: I completely understand why people are concerned. I'm a mum, I've got a little girl who's nine, you know, I can fully appreciate why people would be. I think what I would say is the registered sex offenders that we manage, they're not all, you know, they're different variants of the severity of the offending. We risk assess them; the ones that we identify as a higher risk we robustly manage with a number, it's not just police, probation have a pivotal role in managing these and yeah, you know, we do everything we can to stop them reoffending and to protect and safeguard the most vulnerable people within the community, which is of course children.
I would urge anyone who's got any concerns to report it to the police, you know, anonymously if they want to, but at the end of the day, if we get our information we rely so heavily on the public.
Presenter: Could you tell us a bit more about the kind of sexual offences that you deal with that these people may have committed?
Detective Sergeant Kayleigh Smith: So, the range of the people that we interact with sort of varies, alongside the contact offending, we deal with offenders who have offended online, who may have had indecent images, or may have communicated with a child sexually online.
Presenter: Can you tell us a bit more about social harm prevention orders and what they allow police to do?
Detective Sergeant Kayleigh Smith: At court, the court will consider, court order essentially, in the most simple of terms and for sex offenders normally a Sexual Harm Prevention Order will be considered and hopefully agreed at court. They're very bespoke and they're specific to the defendant, so you know, they can essentially have anything on there we, the police, can request any condition that we think is appropriate in order for that person to be managed post-conviction. Straightforward offences, I don't know, for example indecent images of children, most of our conditions on a SHPO would relate to for example you know not being able to delete history on a device, having to disclose devices and allow them to be monitored by their allocated public protection officer, various sort of similar conditions to that in relation to internet usage or sort of online footprint. In relation to contact offenders, they can be much more bespoke and we can restrict people going to particular areas, you know, if we had a sex offender who had offended in a local park we might apply for a condition for them not to go to local parks and if they were found to be doing that then they would be breaching their SHPO and therefore we would take positive action and would be doing everything we could to arrest them and to safeguard the public.
Presenter: What happens when and you find out that somebody has breached an order?
Detective Sergeant Kayleigh Smith: So, if someone breaches their SHPO, you know, it's a court order so we take robust positive action. Ordinarily, we will arrest them they'll be brought into custody, they'll be interviewed in relation to it and then either myself or the CPS will make a charging decision in relation to that offence. Due to the nature of the people that we manage, more often than not we will be seeking to remand them straight into custody because the whole point of a SHPO is so that person can be managed in the community and if they're disregarding what the court put into place in a SHPO then how can we effectively manage that person? I'd say we probably can't, because if they can't even adhere to the SHPO how can I be confident when I go home at night that they're not going to go on to offend? So, my team are really robust and if we get any sort of a breach like that we'll take positive action and bring them in and try and charge and remand them.
Presenter: How do you think parents and carers can best protect their children - particularly maybe from online abuse?
Detective Sergeant Kayleigh Smith: My best advice to parents is to have really open conversations with your children, that are age appropriate, but very open conversations about what are they actually doing online. Be intrusive in relation to what sites they're using, what apps they're using, you know, don't just leave them to their own devices. You just need to be aware and I think unfortunately some parents perhaps aren't aware of how dangerous the online world is, because paedophiles and registered sex offenders, they use the normal apps as well as you know all of the dark web covert, you know, not as well known sites and communication methods.
Presenter: Thank you to Kayleigh for speaking to us today. We hope this podcast has offered you some reassurance about how we manage sex offenders in the community.
Those key messages about having age-appropriate conversations with your children, knowing what apps they're using and who they're communicating with, are so important.
If you've been affected by the content of this podcast you can visit our website for more information or to report any concerns.
If you're worried about your own behaviour online please consider contacting the Lucy Faithful Foundation to get help. And that's all for this episode of Cambs Cops: Our Stories; remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don't miss the next instalment. Thank you for listening.