A PERVERT who was convicted for following children but escaped the sex offenders register attacked an eight-year-old girl after the “missed opportunity” to monitor and treat him.
Ross Hanratty, 31, used a game of hide and seek to lure his victim into a back garden before performing a sex act on her.
In October 2000, Hanratty was jailed for 12 months after he was found guilty of trying to lure four girls aged nine and ten by following them or offering them cash.
But because a charge that he indecently assaulted one the children was dropped due to lack of evidence Hanratty was never put on the sex offenders register and never flagged up for treatment or monitoring.
At the time worried parents of the children warned Hanratty would strike again and called for him to be put on the sex offenders register.
And in November 2004 he pounced on a girl after stumbling upon an innocent game of hide and seek in Edinburgh’s Magadalene Drive.
He used the game to lure her into a nearby back garden and abused her – DNA evidence later found on her underwear helped track him down.
At the capital’s sheriff court Hanratty was jailed for 12 months and given an 18-month extended sentence.
He was also placed on the sex offenders register for 10 years – a sentence, which if handed out in 2000, would have seen him subject to close monitoring by police at the time of the attack on his latest victim.
Now a children’s charity have called for closer scrutiny of crimes involving children where there may be a sexual element.
And Children 1ST, a leading Scottish charity, have said the case highlights the need to keep tabs on offenders who target children.
Tom Roberts, head of public affairs, said: “This case shows that any hints of inappropriate sexual behaviour towards children must be taken seriously.
“Following a conviction involving the sexual abuse of children, as well as appropriate punishment, we want to see all sex offenders undergo a treatment programme before they are released from prison, and effective supervision and monitoring arrangements put in place when they are released to ensure that children are kept safe.”
Hanratty’s lawyer, Paul Dunne, said the conviction in 2000 – which he admitted was sexual in nature – had been a “missed opportunity” to get treatment and prevent further attacks.
Mr Dunne said: “It would be inaccurate to describe the offences in 2000 as anything other than sexual in nature.
“There was no formal intervention or group work at that time and I think an opportunity was missed.”
Conservative justice spokesman Bill Aitken said while the circumstances of this case were “unfortunate” he saw no reason to review procedures for the sex offenders register.
He said: “I think that this has been a bit unfortunate.
“If the original complaint in 2000 had been substantiated in so far as the indecent assault was concerned then Hanratty would have been put on the Sex Offenders register.
“It is not clear what was placed before Sheriff Poole but where there is a sexual motivation behind a breach of the peace it would be appropriate to place the offender on the register.”
And, although Mr Aitken agreed that a sexual element could be read into the original crimes, he saw no reason to review the current system.
Mr Aitken said: “It occurs to me it is highly unlikely that this man would have been offering girls money without their being some sexual motive but clearly this case was not made before Sheriff Poole who is not renowned for her leniency.
“I do not think that a change in the law is necessary in that that the law is sufficient as it stands. The problem is that in this eight-year-old case we do not know what was actually said in Court and without that information we are effectively hamstrung.”
Sheriff Frank Crowe told Hanratty: “This was a despicable crime, it was perpetrated against a young girl without warning.
“It’s fortunate that matters did not proceed any further than they did.”
Sheriff Crowe reduced the custodial part of Hanratty’s sentence in view of his early plea.
Hanratty will serve 12 months back dated to November 4, 2008 when he was first jailed.