More than seven hundred sex offenders slip off police radar over three year period

By Alex Homer

More than seven hundred sex offenders have slipped off the radar of police in the past three years, we can reveal.

Calling the situation a scandal, Labour MP Sarah Champion said the main reason offenders went missing was because they had changed their names.

Abuse survivors want a new law to ban sex offenders from changing their names to escape authorities and their pasts.

The Home Office carried out two related reviews of this issue last year but has not published the findings from either exercise.

Scottish Conservative shadow community safety minister Russell Findlay MSP, has also called for legal changes in the Scottish Parliament to prevent registered sex offenders changing their names, while Independent TD Denis Naughten raised concerns with Northern Ireland Justice Minister Helen McEntee during a committee last year.

The BBC’s figures come despite campaign group The Safeguarding Alliance having raised the alarm about the scale of this in 2019.

MPs were due to discuss the issue on Thursday in a Backbench Business Debate.

Using requests under the Freedom of Information Act, the BBC Shared Data Unit found figures from across the UK which showed, in the past three financial years:

  • At least 729 sex offenders were recorded by police as having gone missing or wanted for arrest. More than two thirds of police forces provided the data
  • Almost 1,500 registered sex offenders notified police forces of lawful name changes. Twenty police forces provided the data
  • A total of 2,190 criminal records checks by the Disclosure & Barring Service flagged up both the applicants had cautions or convictions and that they had supplied incorrect or missed out personal details such as past names or aliases
  • There had been more than 5,500 offences committed by sex offenders of failing to comply with notification requirements such as living in a household with a child. Thirty-two police forces provided those data
  • Nearly 6750 prosecutions had begun for offences by registered sex offenders of breaches of a sexual harm prevention order/interim order/foreign travel order in England and Wales

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