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What’s in a name?

The arrest of a convicted British paedophile at a Spanish international school highlights a lurking danger

British law allows citizens the right to change their name and have the new name used on legal documents. This law allowed a convicted British paedophile to escape to Spain, where he is now in jail awaiting trial for sexual offences against 36 Spanish children.

In 2016, Ben David Lewis, the director of a children’s summer camp, was convicted of ‘downloading or taking’ indecent images of girls aged under five. He received a two-year jail sentence, but it was suspended. He was placed on the sex offenders register and banned from working with children.

Within four months he had officially changed his name to Ben David Rose using the deed poll process, which takes 15 minutes online. Then, perfectly legally, he applied for and received a passport in his new name.

The problem of paedophiles changing their names is not new. British child protection specialists, the Safeguarding Alliance, has been campaigning on the issue for many years. Its 2020 report on the deed poll loophole found that 1,349 sex offenders had alerted police that they had changed their name by this method. A further 913 offenders had gone missing after they changed their name without notifying the police.

“Under Spanish law, all teachers must submit a criminal record check for 
sexual offending”

Speaking to The Olive Press, the expat newspaper which broke the story, Emily Konstantas, CEO of the Alliance warned, “There are currently hundreds, if not thousands, of known sex offenders slipping under the radar in the UK to seek work abroad.”

Early in 2017, Ben Rose flew to Spain to take up a job as an au pair. He went on to teach at a private language school in Madrid and Concertado, a state-subsidised private school, and at a private language school before taking up a position at the British-style international school where he was working when he was arrested.

Under Spanish law, all teachers must submit a criminal record check for sexual offending, known as a DBS check in the UK. Having changed his name by deed poll, Ben Rose could easily have done so. However, according to the Spanish police, he chose to forge one..

A police search of his home turned up several falsified documents, including not only a fake DBS certificate, but also a forged Postgraduate Certificate in Education required by all state- qualified UK teachers.

Following Rose’s arrest, the Safeguarding Alliance urged Spanish authorities to require British teachers to supply an original birth certificate alongside the criminal record check currently required. This is something else that Rose could perhaps have forged.

Something he would have found harder to fake were the names and contacts of two people, one a former employer, so the school could approach them for references. This is considered best practice in UK education.

In fact, it is not normal practice in Spain to write independently to former employers. Instead they accept written testimonials provided by the teacher, which are yet another thing that is easy to forge. This Spanish ‘loophole’ is one authorities should also consider closing.

For more information on safeguarding in international schools, turn to page 16.

In short

A British teacher accused of sexual offences against 36 Spanish children aged between the ages of four and eight, is currently being held in De Soto Prison in Madrid awaiting trial. Spanish police were alerted by counterparts in Australia after they found pornographic photographs of his victims on the dark web.

The 31-year-old, known in Spain as Ben David Rose, was working at a British-style international school in Madrid, having also taught in a state-subsidised private school and a private language academy, as well as working as an au pair for a family in Zaragoza.

Acting on a tip-off from his fellow teachers, English language website The Olive Press established that the man had previously been convicted for child abuse in the UK courts under his birth name, Ben David Lewis, and had been given a two-year suspended sentence and banned from travelling abroad. The day after his conviction, Lewis changed his name by deed poll, a legal procedure which takes just 15 minutes online in the UK.

He then successfully applied for a British passport in his new name before setting off to work in Spain. The Olive Press was also provided with a British criminal record check for sex offenders, known as a DBS, and a Certificate of Qualified Teacher Status, both in the new name of Ben David Rose.

Spanish police confirm that a number of forged documents, including a DBS certificate, were found in Rose’s house, along with the tools needed to create them. As the police statement pointed out: “In Spain it is a legal requirement whenever working with children to present a certificate that proves the lack of a criminal record for a crime of a sexual nature.”

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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