SHOCK new figures reveal that over the last five years, the sex offender population in Dorset has increased by nearly a third.

New Ministry of Justice figures reveal that 798 registered sex offenders were living amongst the community, being managed under MAPPA in the Dorset Police area as of March this year.

That's a rate of 115 offenders in every 100,000 people, about average for England and Wales.

The number of sex offenders in Dorset has risen by 30 per cent - or 186 offenders.

Police forces, probation services and other government agencies keep tabs on dangerous criminals living in communities in England and Wales using special management plans known as Multi-Agency Protection Arrangements.

Registered sex offenders are split into three categories, depending on how serious a risk they pose to the public, and what degree of management they need.

The vast majority are level one offenders, which means police and other agencies share information about them, but no special measures are required.

But offenders in Dorset were placed in the level two category 14 times during 2018-19, meaning agencies have to hold regular meetings to discuss them, while two were deemed to be level three, the most serious kind.

These offenders pose such a big risk that additional resources such as specialised accommodation may be needed to manage them.

Registered sex offenders have to tell police of any changes to their circumstances, such as their address, foreign travel plans, and potential contact with children.

In Dorset, 43 offenders were cautioned or convicted for failing to do so last year.

The figures also show that 119 violent offenders were living in Dorset in March.

This could include other sexual offenders not on the register, as well as those who have committed crimes such as murder, kidnapping and grievous bodily harm.

More worrying still, child protection charity, the NSPCC, said while the figures were concerning, they were only "the tip of the iceberg".

A spokeswoman said: "The scale of the problem is deeply concerning, but it is encouraging to see that more offenders are coming to light and being put on the list of registered sex offenders, particularly as many of these could have committed the most serious sexual offences against children.

"We know from our own research that recorded child sexual offences are at an all-time high and it’s crucial that the system is able to cope to ensure offenders are being properly monitored in the community.

“But these figures are the tip of the iceberg so it is vital to report signs of sexual abuse where they occur.”

Sex offenders who are sentenced to at least 30 months in prison remain on the register indefinitely – although some can apply to be removed after 15 years following a change to the law in 2012.

In Dorset, seven sex offenders successfully had their names removed from the register following an application last year.