Calls for law change to close loophole on sex offenders changing names | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

The government has been urged to overhaul the law to close a loophole that allows sex offenders to change their names without detection as data shows thousands have breached rules on changing their names or addresses.

It is illegal for registered sex offenders to alter their name without informing the police within three days but there is no legal requirement for victims or other organisations to be informed of any change.

An amendment to the Victims and Prisoners Bill tabled by Labour’s Sarah Champion, exclusively shared with The Independent, calls for that to be changed – making it mandatory for the police and courts to tell victims.

The proposed change, which has the backing of cross-party MPs including Priti Patel, Caroline Lucas, Hilary Benn, and Philip Davies, could also require them to share the information with the passport office and DVLA so they can keep tabs on sex offenders who change their names.

It comes as data shows 16,298 registered sex offenders were charged for not telling police they had changed their name, address or other personal details between 2015 and 2020. Some 1,641 sex offenders were cautioned or convicted for infringing the same rules in the year to March 2022.

The amendment is due to be debated by a committee of MPs scrutinising the legislation in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

Ms Champion, MP for Rotherham, told The Independent that police officers told her it was common for people to change their name before they are charged or convicted which then enables them to keep their “birth name clean”.

”All those legal criminal systems fall as soon as you change your name,” the politician explained. “If you change your name, you can get a new passport and a new driving licence, that means you can get a clean Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check – if you go and work in a secure children’s home with your new name and you are a prolific sex offender it is not going to show up.”

A DBS check allows workplaces to see the criminal record of a potential employee applying for a position – with social workers, teachers, medical professionals, childminders, and foster carers among those that carry out such checks.

Ms Champion argued name changing was a “seemingly well-established technique of sex offenders” and said such perpetrators “by their very nature look for vulnerabilities to exploit”.

The politician, who works closely with the campaign group Safeguarding Alliance on these issues, warned it was “utter nonsense” to “expect” sex offenders “to play by the rules” when altering their name.

Ms Champion said measures such as restraining orders, stalking protection orders, sexual harm prevention orders, as well as Clare’s law and Sarah’s Law – the mechanisms that allow concerned members of the public to find out if someone has convictions for domestic abuse or sexual offences – all become “redundant” if an offender changes their name.

“It genuinely terrifies me the government knows and understands the risks around this loophole and is just not acting on it,” she added. “That is utterly negligent.”

Jayne Butler, chief executive of Rape Crisis England and Wales, told The Independent the loophole was posing a risk to women and girls as it enables perpetrators to “effectively erase their past”.

She added: “Currently, the responsibility is on individuals to inform the police of any name change, but we know that perpetrators don’t always do this, meaning they can go under the radar of authorities.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Public protection is a priority for this government and we have some of the toughest powers in the world to deal with sex offenders.

“To ensure registered sex offenders cannot hide their criminal past, they must notify police of their personal details every year and whenever they change – this includes any name changes. Failure to comply, including providing false information, is a criminal offence punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

“We have further strengthened the regime for managing registered sex offenders and those who pose a risk through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act.”

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