Ban on sex offenders changing their name will become law

Sarah Champion MP
Sarah Champion MP said this issue had been "dumped in the 'too difficult' drawer." [BBC]

A ban on sex offenders in England and Wales changing their name to avoid detection will be brought in, the government has confirmed.

Last year the BBC revealed more than 700 sex offenders had slipped off the radar of police over three years, many due to an identity change.

Labour MP Sarah Champion has been campaigning for the change, which has now been accepted by the Home Office.

She is MP for Rotherham, where a child abuse scandal was exposed in 2016.

The measure was first announced by Suella Braverman, the then home secretary, at the Conservative Party Conference in October.

On Thursday, Safeguarding Minister Laura Farris confirmed the amendment will be included in the upcoming Criminal Justice Bill.

Following the announcement Ms Champion posted on social media: "My mind is slightly blown".

She congratulated campaigners and added: "Amazing! Doesn't go as far as I want, but will stop them getting clean DBS [Disclosure and Barring Service certification]. I can't tell you how relieved I feel. Well done survivors!!"

'Protect the public'

The new clause will allow police to prevent registered sex offenders from changing their names on documents including passports, driving licences and immigration documents without prior approval from the police.

Police chiefs will be able to use the power where they believe it's necessary to protect the public from sexual harm and breaches will be punishable by up to five years in prison.

In her letter, Ms Farris wrote the measures would "complement existing systems" and help prevent sex offenders from obtaining Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificates or clean passports "in order to gain access to vulnerable people".

She added: "I hope these measures will address the concerns you have raised on the issue of name changes by registered sex offenders and, most importantly, provide victims with greater confidence that registered sex offenders will not be able to evade safeguarding controls."

The campaign group, the Safeguarding Alliance, has been pushing for a change in the law since 2019.

There are about 67,000 registered sex offenders living in the UK.

It costs from £42.44 for an enrolled deed poll to change someone's name, where the applicant's new name is added to public records.

Some offenders have changed their names from prison by paying an administration fee of £15 for a "do-it-yourself" unenrolled deed poll which required two witnesses, Ms Champion has previously told Parliament.