Saturday, May 25, 2024

Name games

We spoke to Emily Konstantas, chief executive officer of the Safeguarding Alliance, to find out how schools can best protect their students from an alarming loophole

The Safeguarding Alliance has identified a serious safeguarding loophole whereby registered sex offenders are able to change their name by deed poll, both enrolled and un-enrolled, and go under the radar of all authorities, putting societies most vulnerable at considerable and immediate risk of harm. This renders both the UK’s Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme (otherwise known as ‘Sarah’s Law’) and the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme (otherwise known as ‘Claire’s Law’) redundant and makes a mockery of the legal system.

The process by which a registered sex offender can change their name by deed poll, both enrolled and un-enrolled, is far too simple, inexpensive and unregulated. An offender can change their name, from prison or elsewhere, at minimal or no cost and commence the process of obscuring their identity unmonitored.

The UK’s Sexual Offences Act 2003 places the onus of reporting a name change on the registered sex offender. This is a legal loophole rendering reporting unreliable and resulting in sex offenders slipping under the radar of all authorities.

There is no joined-up approach between statutory and other agencies. As a result, the effectiveness of important legislation, the Sex Offenders Register, the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme and Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme are being undermined and rendered redundant.

The threat in schools

Schools can implement a birth certificate check to cross reference this against other forms of identification, such as passports and driving licences, as you cannot change the name on an original birth certificate.

However, this must be exercised with caution, as some sex offenders will change their name for sentencing, meaning their birth name remains protected. This is highlighted in the high-profile case of government aid worker Peter Davis, who changed his name just before trial to James Robert Harris.

“The very live risk of registered sex offender name change cannot be 
underestimated in international school settings”

The case of Ben Lewis or Ben David Rose (just one example of many) highlights why the very live risk of registered sex offender name change cannot be underestimated in international school settings.

In 2016, registered sex offender Ben Lewis changed his name by deed poll and moved to Spain.

This was despite receiving a two-year suspended prison sentence and being barred from working with children or leaving the country.

Using the name of Ben David Rose, and within weeks upon his arrival in Spain, he took up a live-in position as an au pair to a family with three young children. He then went on to become a teacher at several prestigious British schools in Spain, even producing a DBS in the name of Ben David Rose, despite being a registered sex offender in the United Kingdom, albeit in his birth name.

What is being done

The Safeguarding Alliance has been raising public awareness of this very serious issue and continues to lobby the UK Government to amend legislation and close the loophole. We are calling for:

  • Amendments to the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill;
  • A national and joined-up sex offenders register;
  • A public inquiry into the historical failings around registered sex offender name change;
  • Immediate guidance to be published for all organisations employing people to work with children, young people or vulnerable adults;
  • The removal of the automatic right of registered sex offender name change;
  • A review into the current name-change process in the United Kingdom;
  • A passport application review.

How joining an organisation helps

Being part of organisations such as the Safeguarding Alliance and the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) enables schools to remain up to date with trending safeguarding concerns and issues. The Safeguarding Alliance is proud to work in partnership with COBIS to ensure a global transnational approach is taken to

identifying and communicating safeguarding themes.

Liz Granirer
Liz Granirer
Liz has been a journalist for many years. She is currently editor of EL Gazette and has previously edited the magazines Young Performer, StepForward and Accounting Technician; been deputy editor on Right Start magazine; chief sub editor on Country Homes & Interiors; and sub editor on easyJet Traveller, Lonely Planet and Family Traveller magazines, along with a number of others.
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