Blunkett plans to widen sex offenders list

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More offenders are to get their names posted on the sex offenders register under Home Office plans to be published tomorrow.

A total of 15,000 names are on the sex offenders register but the consultation paper will propose widening its scope to catch those convicted of sexually motivated crimes. Under this proposal, evidence of sexual abuse in the killing of James Bulger would have put Thompson and Venables on the register.

In a controversial move the Home Office green paper will propose that court evidence showing a sexual motive for an attack should be taken into account to ensure that sex attackers charged with other offences do not escape the register.

Lawyers said last night that searching through the evidence in a case to determine which offences were sexually motivated carried potential dangers. However, Mr Blunkett has been persuaded that there is a need to plug loopholes in the law with a new Criminal Justice Bill in the next session of Parliament.

Foreigners who have committed sex offences abroad before coming to this country to study or to work will also be added to the sex offenders register for the first time.

Changes also will be proposed to register UK nationals who committed sex offences abroad, including paedophiles engaged in sex tourism, and who have never committed an offence in this country.

The green paper will be coupled with plans to expand the number of special units in prisons to house paedophiles who have served their sentences but agree to stay within prison walls for their own protection.

At Nottingham prison, Robert Oliver, who was convicted of the manslaughter of Jason Swift, has already been living in such a unit though he has not been convicted of any offence since leaving jail.

In a further step to answer public concern, Mr Blunkett will review the existing ban on the release of the names on the register to groups representing victims' families. Successive home secretaries have rejected demands for the names to be made public, fearing attacks by vigilantes could drive sex offenders underground. Mr Blunkett is to consider controlled release of information, possibly to teachers and employers, who have reasonable suspicions about individuals. At present, it is restricted to the police, probation service and local authorities.

"He took advice from the police and all were agreed that controlled disclosure would hinder rather than help. But he will make sure that everything is being done to protect children. He will look again at the possibility of controlled disclosure," said a government source.

The Sex Offenders Act makes it a criminal offence punishable by up to six months in jail for anyone convicted or cautioned for specific sex crimes to fail to tell the police within 14 days of a change of address. There is no question of making the information generally available to the public.

Tory Home Office ministers considered the idea of "community notification", now widespread in America since the introduction of Megan's Law in many states. This was named after Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old raped and murdered by a convicted paedophile who moved into the New Jersey street where she lived.