THE number of registered sex offenders living in Dorset has risen by nearly 40 per cent in three years, latest figures have revealed.

Statistics released by the government today show there are more than 500 violent and sexual offenders being monitored across the county, 379 of whom are on the sex offenders register.

The numbers were revealed as part of the MAPPA (Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements) annual report.

It shows the numbers on the register have steadily increased from 273 in 2002/03 to 333 in 2003/04, 352 in 2004/05 and 379 in 2005/06.

But police have stressed the figures do not necessarily mean there are more offenders in the county.

The increase shows more are being registered and monitored, they said.

In Dorset representatives from organisations including probation, Dorset Police and mental health services form the county's MAPPA panel and meet regularly to review those under their care.

Their role is to put together a package of measures designed to protect the public from the most dangerous offenders living in the community.

Dorset MAPPA last week allowed a Daily Echo reporter exclusive access to one of their meetings in a bid to reassure the public about the huge amount of work going on behind the scenes to keep them safe.

The panel meeting was charied by Detective Chief Inspector Ivor Graham of Dorset Police who said only 28 of the 526 offenders under their care are deemed to be so dangerous that they need high-level monitoring and active multi-agency input.

The figures are released just days after a convicted sex offender was warned he would be locked up for life after he was convicted of abducting a six year old girl from her bath and raping her in North Tyneside.

Peter Voisey, 35, who already had a conviction of sexually assaulting a child, dumped his victim naked on the street.