Force using new software app to monitor sex offenders’ online behaviour
Nottinghamshire Police is using a new software app to monitor the online activity of sex offenders.
Officers from the force’s MOSOVO (Management of Sexual Offenders and Violent Offenders) team are installing the app on offenders’ computers, phones and tablets to alert them to any “prohibited behaviour”.
The new app, funded by a Home Office grant, monitors words, images and behaviours that would constitute a breach of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO) – for example, sexualised chat on an internet forum or the consumption of pornography.
Nottinghamshire Police said case officers, who started installing the software at the end of January, are notified of prohibited behaviour and can then respond accordingly – potentially bringing a new charge if the breaches are serious enough.
Detective Inspector Luke Waller, the force lead on the MOSOVO team, explained: “My team are working every day to monitor offenders’ behaviour. By helping my officers to spot breaches as early as possible this software will help us to keep vulnerable people safe from harm.
“By recording activity the software is capable of alerting us to behaviours that we would then need to confront. A good example of how this software works in practice would be a known offender searching the internet for certain types of explicit material, or streaming a video showing the sexual abuse of a child.”
However, Det Insp Waller stressed that the technology “was not being used instead of more traditional police work like knocking on doors”.
“It is merely an additional tool we are using to keep vulnerable people safe from harm,” he said. “In practice I believe it will generate considerable extra work for us, but if that work involves keeping vulnerable people safe then I and the rest of my team will be more than happy.”
The MOSOVO team, based in Mansfield and Nottingham, is responsible for the monitoring of some 1,300 individuals across the county – those whose previous offending has made them subject to the Sex Offenders’ Register and/or a specific SHPO that prevents them from doing certain things.
Officers already have the power to seize and search electronic devices, to visit offender’s homes at random and even to demand prior notification when they form new relationships, explained Nottinghamshire Police. It is also forbidden for most offenders to operate devices that are not registered with the police.
Nottinghamshire Police has also used additional funding from the Home to employ an additional civilian IT specialist, whose job it is to support frontline officers in carrying out more complex investigations into offenders’ internet and computer use.