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Chronicle bids to overturn police decision on sex offenders

The Shrewsbury Chronicle has launched a bid to force police to reveal how many registered sex offenders are living in the area.

The weekly newspaper has had a Freedom of Information request – and an appeal – turned down by West Mercia Police, and has now taken the matter to the Information Commissioner.

It had asked the force to reveal how many registered sex offenders were living in the Shrewsbury and Atcham borough area – an area with a population of more than 70,000.

It had also asked how many violent sexual offenders there were in the area and how many offenders had been cautioned or convicted for breaches of their requirement over the past five years.

But the force refused the request claiming it could lead to the identification of offenders. An appeal to West Mercia Police’s Professional Standards department was also turned down.

Reporter Russell Roberts, who submitted the FOI request, said: “We are now complaining to the Information Commissioner in a bid to force them to disclose the information as we feel their reasons for withholding are unjust and that this information should be in the public domain.

“Even though the request only asked for figures relating to the borough as a whole and not individual areas, the force says it is fearful they may lead to the identification of offenders and give rise to vigilante attacks.”

The paper’s appeal has been backed by Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczynski, who said he was appalled by the decision by the police to withhold the information.

He said: “It is a ludicrous idea that our local paper is not allowed to know how many sex offenders there are living in the Shrewsbury area. That is, not naming anybody or provoking people as a result of that figure. It is madness.

“I will formally submit a written Parliamentary Question in the Commons in order to help the Chronicle.”

In its response to the Chronicle, West Mercia Police said: “Although convicted offenders, the rights of the individuals in these cases cannot be underestimated.

“Their right to not be subject to fear or intimidation is firmly embedded in the Human Rights Act.”

  • A further FOI request submitted by Russell to Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust has revealed that there had been more than 800 cases of long-term sickness at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital during 2005 and 2006.

    The data received by the Chronicle covered the total number of 2,752 staff at the hospital.