Thousands of sex offenders prosecuted for changing personal details without telling police | Political News

Thousands of sex offenders are changing their details without notifying police, new figures reveal, as campaigners call for an end to a “loophole that is making a mockery of the legal system”.

Between January 2019 and June 2022, there have been almost 12,000 prosecutions made against people on the sex offense register who have failed to tell authorities about a change in their personal information, such as name and location, despite a legal requirement to do so.

The figures – obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) Request by The Safeguarding Alliance and shared exclusively with Sky News – are “just the tip of the iceberg in this epidemic” and do not reflect those who have not been caught, campaigners say.

Labor MP Sarah Champion, who led a debate in parliament on Thursday about tightening the laws, told Sky News: “By changing their name that makes a lot of the schemes that we have around safeguarding completely redundant.

“For example women who’ve experienced domestic violence, they can call up, check the name of their new partner against that (sex offence) register. If they’ve got a different name, that’s not going to flag those dangers.”

Ms Champion said the process of changing a name for a sex offender is “so simple to do”.

“You can do it online. I’ve found offenders that have done it in prison. I’ve found offenders that do it just before they get charged to keep their birth name protected.”

She said a new name allows criminals to get a new driving license and passport and with those documents “you can then get a clean DBS check in that new name”.

“And we’ve found examples of offenders that have done that. And then have gone on to re-offend almost without any form of detection being available,” she said.

The MP for Rotherham said police already have tools to put markers on driving licenses and passports electronically which could be used to flag attempts by sex offenders to change their details.

However, she claimed the Home Office have said it could only be applied in the most extreme circumstances because of cost.

Labor MP Sarah Champion said the process for a sex offender trying to change their name is “simple to do”

Ms Champion said: “What price is put on protecting a child or a vulnerable person from a sexual offender? What price is the consequence of not doing that? Colossal. I would imagine it’s going to be a couple of hundred pounds each time they do check.”

Asked if sex offenders should be stopped from changing their name in the first place, Ms Champion said “you still then have the same problem of trying to enforce it.”

“The problem we have at the moment is all of the onus is onto the sex offender to tell the police if they change their name, if they change their location, if they go abroad, and by nature, they’re not,” she said.

She said sex offenders are “disappearing” after changing their details and “the government can’t just sit on its hands on this. It needs to put proper protections in place”.

Can sex offenders legally change their name?

Data previously obtained by Sky News shows more than 900 sex offenders have disappeared off the police radar with many thought to have disguised their identities by changing their names and not telling officers.

From January 2017 to December 2019, 1,349 registered sex offenders notified a name change – but 913 were reported missing during the same time.

Case study: How easily can sex offenders change their name?

A deed poll process takes 15 minutes online and costs £42.44.

Campaigners are warning that while it is an offense for people on the sex offenders register to change their names without telling officials, that’s not incentive enough for them not to do it – as it’s easy to do and common practice.

A rapist called Terry Price conducted a string of sexual offenses over three decades and has changed his name five times in an effort to cover up his recurring pattern of behavior.

Della Wright, who was abused by Price as a child, recently found the courage to report the crimes – but she discovered her attacker was called Robert McEwan (also a sex offender).

Ahead of his trial in 2016, her attacker changed his name again to Mr Mac, so he was unable to enter a plea because the charges were against Robert McEwan. The process was disrupted for several weeks and Ms Wright believes he did it in the hope she would lose her nerve.

Ms Wright has waived her right to anonymity to highlight this issue in the hope that the laws will change to make it impossible for sex offenders to change their identities.

While sex offenders who fail to notify face up to five years in prison, campaigners say that is not enough of an incentive to stop them.

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Ms Champion and the Safeguarding Alliance want a tagging system placed on the passport and/or driving license on all registered sex offenders to stop them from using official documents as a way to evade justice.

They are also calling for the onus to be put on authorities who manage violent or sexual offenders to check if criminals have changed their details.

The government carried out a review of the issue in 2021 but the findings have not been made public.

Government ‘carefully considering’ review findings

Speaking in the Commons on Thursday, Home Office minister Sarah Dines said she was “carefully considering the findings”, stressing some of the content is “very sensitive”.

She suggested there are several tools to help the government manage “the risk” of sex offenders, but added: “I do accept and concede that there is always more work to be done.”

Ms Dines also faced pressure to take action from Conservative MP Mark Fletcher, who wants to make a new law to stop sex offenders from changing their identities.

The MP for Bolsover also said it is “unacceptable” and a “tremendous slap in the face” for victims for the government not to publish a review into the issue, and it feels like “we are prioritizing the rights of sexual offenders over the rights of the general public”.

Miss Dines said: “As I’ve made clear, public protection and safety is our number one priority and we’re committed to ensuring that the police and other agencies have more and better tools to assist them to more effectively manage registered sex offenders.

“So in a nutshell, a lot has been done but there is more to do. We need more joined-up systems and I’m going to try and do my little bit in my short time to address these issues.”


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