15 years for sex offenders review

Wesley Johnson,Pa
Sunday 23 October 2011 02:57

Paedophiles and rapists who want to be removed from the sex offenders register will have to wait 15 years before they can apply for a review, the Home Office has said.

Thousands of sex offenders will be able to apply to have their names removed after the Supreme Court ruled it was a breach of offenders' human rights to be put on the register for life with no review.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the Government was "appalled" at the ruling and would "make the minimum possible changes to the law".

Under the proposals, sex offenders will only be able to ask to be removed from the register 15 years after being released from jail, the Home Office said.

The reviews would be led by police with information from the authorities involved in the multi-agency public protection arrangements (Mappa).

Crime and security minister James Brokenshire said: "Protecting the public is our number one priority and tough checks and a range of tools are already in place to manage known sex offenders.

"We recognise that we can build on this which is why we are seeking views on extending and strengthening the notification requirements which will further enhance our ability to manage offenders in local communities.

"Today the Government has also laid the proposal to make the draft order which will ensure that strict rules are put in place for considering whether sex offenders who are placed on the register for life should ever be allowed to be removed."

Mr Brokenshire also outlined plans that mean sex offenders would have to report to the authorities before travelling abroad.

They will also have to let the authorities know if they are living in a house with children and will have to provide a weekly update of where they can be found if they have no fixed address.

To ensure sex offenders can no longer avoid being on the register when they change their name by deed poll, they will have to notify police of passport, bank account and credit card details, and provide identification at each notification.

Assistant Chief Constable Michelle Skeer, the lead on the management of sexual and violent offenders for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said Mappa provided "some of the most effective tools in the world to manage registered sex offenders".

"Protecting the public from harm is a fundamental role for the police service but we recognise that this must be balanced with the rights of individuals, as highlighted by the Supreme Court judgment," she said.

"The reality is that the risks posed by some offenders can never be completely eliminated, but we will continue to do all in our power to keep them to a minimum and believe that the proposed review process strikes the right balance between individual rights and public safety."

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the probation union Napo, said: "The Government has been forced to make a concession.

"No doubt there will be no shortage of sex offenders who will want to appeal against being on the register because of stigma and shame.

"However it is highly unlikely that any will be successful. In order to be removed the individual will have to prove that they are no longer a threat to women and children and this will be extremely difficult."

The maximum number of sex offenders eligible for a review each year was estimated at 1,200, the Home Office impact assessment showed.

On average, each review would take about 13 hours of police time at an average cost of £760.

Shadow home office minister Diana Johnson said Labour would not back the plans.

"We are not comfortable with the Government's decision to allow individual appeals for serious sex offenders," she said.

"The Home Secretary has said she had no choice but to make this change. However, the Supreme Court's judgment on this case does not mandate individual appeals for sex offenders.

"Instead it calls for Parliament to review the policy, which the Home Secretary has not allowed."

Ms Johnson went on: "Labour was also clear at the time that the Human Rights Act mandates Parliament to decide whether changes following court judgments are required.

"It does not force the Home Secretary into immediately weakening the sex offenders register. Parliament can and should be given the opportunity to review the court's decision and decide whether any changes should be made.

"This has been a rushed decision, and we will not support it."