Supreme Court
The Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that offenders in England and Wales should have the chance to prove that they have reformed Chris Ratcliffe/Getty

Nearly 700 sex offenders have been removed from the national sex offenders register over the past four years. Among them are at least 170 rapists and 157 child abusers who have been told that they no longer have to register with the police, the BBC has revealed.

Offenders who have been removed from the register reportedly include people convicted of raping children, both boys and girls, as well as people convicted of incest and taking indecent images of children. More than 50% of applications to be removed from the register were successful, figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request revealed.

David Hines, founder of the National Victims' Association, told the BBC: "I think the public will be outraged as well. These people should stay on the register. This is not protecting the public."

The BBC noted that there were 49,466 sex offenders on the register in the UK as of 31 March 2015. These people will only be able to issue an appeal 15 years after they leave prison.

The changes to the sex offenders register came in 2010 when the Supreme Court ruled that offenders in England and Wales should have the chance to prove that they have reformed. The Home Office guidance states that offenders should only be removed from the sex offenders register if they are no longer considered a sexual harm risk.

Home Secretary Theresa May said at the time: "We will deliberately set the bar for those appeals as high as possible. Public protection must come first."

Figures obtained by the BBC revealed that North Wales Police had approved 90% of appeal requests. Meanwhile, neighbouring Dyfed-Powys Police had not approved any during this time period.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Public safety is at the heart of all decisions taken by the police. Those who continue to pose a risk will remain on the sex offenders register – if necessary, for life."

Wiltshire, Northumbria, Northern Ireland, Devon, Cornwall and Cambridgeshire were among the top 10 police forces to approve the most appeal requests, ranging between 75% and 87% approval. North Yorkshire, Humberside and West Midlands had among the lowest approval rates.