Sex offenders to be banned from changing name and gender in bid to close loophole, Suella Braverman announces
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Sex offenders will face a lifetime ban on changing their name and gender in a bid to close a loophole that is allowing them to evade the sex offences register, Suella Braverman has announced.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, the Home Secretary unveiled new plans for the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) to be alerted if predators change their details on government agencies such as HMRC, HM Passport Office, the DVLA, and the Department for Work and Pensions - so that they can face prosecution for this act.
Currently, all registered sex offenders must notify their local police force within three days of changing their name. Failing to do so is a criminal offence, but the onus is placed entirely on the offender to comply with the legislation, which has led to cases where predators evade the register.
Figures show that between January 2019 and June 2022, there were almost 12,000 prosecutions against people on the sex offence register who failed to alert authorities about a change in their personal information. In the most serious cases, there have been examples of people using new names to gain access to children by securing employment in schools, where they re-offend.
However, under the new legislation, there will be an outright ban on anyone convicted of a sex-related crime doing anything to change their identity - whether that be by changing their name or gender.
According to The Times, which was the first to report on Braverman’s plans, there are still several potential loopholes that could be exploited under the ban which the Home Office is attempting to solve before properly introducing the legislation. Predators could still evade detection for example if they simply abandon all of their existing accounts with government agencies, and do not update any of their information.
Meanwhile, others have noted that an outright ban on altering one’s identity would not be enforceable, as if someone says they are doing so to change their gender, they are protected by the Equalities Act. The same protections apply for people who say they are changing their identity due to religious reasons, which is another loophole predators could exploit.
Rose West, who, alongside her husband Fred West, tortured, raped and murdered an unknown number of women over a two decade period between 1967 and 1987, is one offender who changed her name under the current laws. First reported by The Sun, West rebranded herself as Jennifer Jones back in 2020 - paying just £36 to change her name by deed poll.
Similarly, rapist Terry Price, who carried out serious sex offences over three decades, altered his name no less than five times in an attempt to cover up his crimes.
Meanwhile, following Ian Huntley’s conviction for murdering 10-year-old schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in 2002, it was revealed that he had been able to take up a position as a school caretaker because he had applied under the name Ian Nixon, which meant previous allegations of child sex abuse had not been flagged.
Braverman told an audience in Manchester: “We will bring forward legislation to prevent registered sex offenders from changing their identities. We will work to strengthen background checks so that they can catch undisclosed changes of identity.
“Let me tell you something. I don’t care if anyone thinks this is interfereing with their human rights. It’s time to start caring less about the rights of sex offenders, and more about the rights of victims.”
Another proposed law change unveiled at the Tory Party conference was the plan to see parents who kill their partner or ex-partner have their rights over their children automatically removed.