Following years of campaigning by The Safeguarding Alliance and several other organisations, Suella Braverman has announced a ban on registered sex offenders changing their identity. This announcement was made on 3 October 2023 as part of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Shannon Boyce previously discussed this issue in her article dated 13 March 2023 which considered the details of the parliamentary debate.
The general rule in the UK is that any person is entitled to change their name by deed poll. The present position is that under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the onus is on the offender to notify the police of any name change or change of address.
As the onus is entirely on the offender to make a notification of change to the relevant authorities, this is a loophole which has enabled offenders to essentially go missing in the system. Breaching this rule has led to significant safeguarding concerns over the years, with offenders being able to create a new means of identification and undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check under their new name. In the most serious cases, this has allowed previous offenders to obtain jobs working with vulnerable children and adults.
In an attempt to close this loophole, the Government has now accepted the amendment as part of Clause 24 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. This ensures that a registered sex offender will not be able to change their identity.
Relevant data held by HMRC, DWP, HM Passport Office and the DVLA will be merged with that held by the DBS so any change made on these platforms will alert the DBS. This is an important development as multi-agency information sharing is key to making sure safeguarding and child protection is working as effectively as possible. The Government has also advised they will strengthen background checks so they can catch any undisclosed changes of identities.
The Safeguarding Alliance, which has spent years campaigning for this change, released a press statement saying: “This change, which could not have come quick enough, is the biggest change to safeguarding legislation to date and we are proud to have been at the forefront in pioneering such change.”
While this is a step in the right direction to improve safeguarding, there are still loopholes which can be exploited. There are concerns that an individual could still change their personal details if they claim they are doing so in respect of a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 such as gender. It remains to be seen if this avenue will now be utilised by offenders.
Alex Chalk MP has announced an amendment to The Victims and Prisoners Bill, known as Jade’s Law, which will, by the end of this year, automatically take away parental rights from a parent who has been found guilty of murder or manslaughter of the other parent. It should be noted that there is an exemption in place in cases where a domestic abuse victim has ended the life of their abuser.
For more information, please contact:
Shannon Boyce – File Handler
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