20 Jul 2017
A high-risk sex offender is on the loose in Scotland but Crown lawyers have ordered police to keep his identity secret.
Senior detectives begged legal officials to let them warn the public about the pervert and publish his name and photograph.
But the lawyers at the Crown Office refused. It’s believed they fear naming him might jeopardise his rights.
The offender went missing from his home in the west of Scotland last month.
It’s the latest in a long line of cases where the authorities have concealed the identities of perverts on the run.
One fugitive, paedophile Paul Vernon, was only caught after the Daily Record published his photo.
The latest secrecy order has horrified grieving mother Margaret-Ann Cummings, whose son Mark, eight, was murdered in 2004 by a pervert allowed to hide in her Glasgow neighbourhood.
She said: “To whoever made this scandalous decision, shame on you.
“I’m shocked and angry that somebody can use a law book to justify putting people’s safety at risk like this. Whose side are they on?
“This sex offender has been missing for weeks. How much longer are the Crown Office prepared to wait?
“Every day he’s on the run, it’s a lottery. God forbid anything terrible happens.
“If the police say they want to warn the public, it means they’ve run out of leads and they need help.
“The Crown Office should be bending over backwards to give them every possible assistance, not making their job more difficult.
“Experience suggests that if this offender’s photo was published, he’d be off the streets in days, if not hours.”
As a result of the Crown’s decision, the public are being kept in the dark about the offender’s name, age, appearance, crimes and even whether he poses a particular threat to children.
A Police Scotland spokesman confirmed: “He is still wanted. The search continues in Scotland.
“In terms of a public appeal, detectives did approach the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service but the request was not granted.
“Because of the Crown Office decision, we wouldn’t be able to give any further details.”
There are 3957 Registered Sex Offenders (RSOs) living in the community in Scotland. They have to give their details to police every year and let officers know within 72 hours if they change their address.
Police or social workers will visit them to monitor them, and some of the perverts will have extra restrictions imposed on them to keep them away from children, computers or public spaces.
Seven of the registered offenders are wanted fugitives but are believed to have fled abroad.
Police are concerned about the eighth – the fugitive at the centre of the Crown ban who is believed to still be in Scotland.
Any RSO who vanishes is immediately classed as high-risk because he has flouted rules designed to keep the public safe.
Police usually won’t alert the public if they have a strong lead about where the fugitive has gone. Naming him would
only warn him that they are on his trail.
But in the case of the Crown ban pervert, it’s believed the trail has gone cold, and senior officers wanted him named to try to make sure he cannot commit another crime.
The Crown won’t say why they won’t let police name him.
One theory is that he faces new criminal allegations, and the lawyers fear a future trial would be prejudiced if he was unmasked as a sex offender.
A Crown spokesman would only say: “This is not something we can offer comment on.
“Any requests by police to issue images, CCTV or press releases are very carefully considered by Crown Counsel before a decision on how to proceed is made.”
The repeated failure of the authorities in Scotland to warn the public about fugitive perverts has caused controversy for years.
The Record revealed in March 2015 that teachers across Scotland had been warned to watch out for Vernon hanging around their schools. But the authorities decided not to warn parents about him.
We published his photo and he was arrested within hours, hiding out near Oban in Argyll, after a tip-off from a reader.
Later that year, Police Scotland kept silent when paedophile Mark Hudgell went missing in Lincolnshire, even though he had links to Edinburgh.
Police in England issued a public warning that 31-year-old Hudgell, who was awaiting sentence for grooming a 12-year-old girl, could strike again.
But when the hunt for him moved north of the border, Scots were not told.
Hudgell was picked up in East Lothian and appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, where he was bailed by mistake even though police in Lincolnshire had issued a warrant for his arrest.
Police Scotland then failed again to reveal he was on the loose. He was only caught after returning to England.
In 2014, Police Scotland were slated for waiting eleven weeks to reveal that Lorcan Halton, 45, had vanished
He had previously been jailed for lewd and libidinous behaviour towards young girls and went missing while due to appear in court again. When a public appeal was finally made, he was picked up in Cavan, Ireland, within 48 hours.
Last year, we revealed that a mystery sex offender who went missing to avoid deportation was a Romanian drifter with previous convictions.
The 40-year-old was snared in Wolverhampton weeks after disappearing from Glasgow. He was due to be kicked out of the country because the Home Office deemed him a risk, but Police Scotland didn’t publicise his disappearance and claimed he wasn’t a danger.
After the murder of Mark Cummings by serial paedophile Stuart Leggate, a committee of MSPs formed to look at the issue of monitoring perverts called for early warnings for the public when high-risk offenders absconded.
The committee said in 2006: “Their details should be provided to local communities and made available more widely, including the use websites.”
Similar early warning systems are now used in Western Australia and parts of the USA, but not in Scotland.
Margaret-Ann believes that is simply not good enough. She said: “We need the Scottish Government to put their foot down and insist that when a sex offender disappears, we know about it.
“That was what was recommended more than a decade ago. It’s about time ministers got the job done.”