New laws on return of sex offenders

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The Independent Online
A NEW LAW to protect the public from convicted sex offenders and killers deported back to Britain after serving their jail sentences abroad is being planned by the Home Office.

The measure has been prompted by a series of high-profile cases in which convicted murderers and rapists have been returned to Britain.

Under the current legislation nothing can be done to restrict the movements of former convicts or to monitor their actions, because they have completed their sentences abroad.

The latest case involves a serial sex attacker known as the "Lift Rapist", who has lived in Australia since he was 10.

Edward Godfrey, 37, could be deported to the United Kingdom next month, after an Australian hearing ruled that he poses a serious threat to women. He has served a 12-year sentence for rape and has 14 other convictions for violent sex attacks.

The Home Office is powerless to prevent Godfrey, who was brought up in Hertfordshire, from being sent back to the UK. He has never taken Australian citizenship and is therefore still considered British.

The Home Office and Scottish Office are currently looking at introducing legislation that would force British offenders convicted of serious offences abroad to be returned to the UK to complete their sentences under the British legal system.

This would mean that sex criminals would automatically be placed on the Sex Offenders Register and would have to report their movements and any change of address or name to the police. Offenders would also have to be supervised by the Probation Service.

Ministers are planning to ratify the European Union Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and then bring in domestic legislation.

A Home Office spokesman said: "That would enable us to take prisoners from abroad, before they finish their sentence, without their consent, so they serve the remainder of their sentence in the UK."

While there are only a small number of British people being deported after committing offences abroad, the seriousness of their crimes and potential for further lawlessness has worried communities and politicians.

In May 1997 one of Australia's most notorious serial killers, Archie McCafferty, 49, was deported to his home city of Glasgow. McCafferty, known as "Mad Dog", served 23 years in Australian jails for four murders and once pledged to kill seven people.

Although McCafferty lived in Australia from the age of 10, after his family emigrated, he never applied for citizenship.

Godfrey is to go before a parole board on 29 July. A judge in Brisbane sentenced him to 12 years in 1983 for rape, another serious sexual offence and indecent assault. Six months after his release Godfrey was back behind bars after indecently assaulting several more women.

If the authorities grant him parole, the Australian government is expected to deport him to Britain within a week.