Home secretary Jacqui Smith today announced measures to make it easier for the police to restrict the movements of registered child sex offenders both within the UK and abroad.
She said the government would bring forward legislation as soon as possible to strengthen the UK’s management of child sex offenders which she described as “among the toughest in the world”.
Smith said the government would extend the length of time an offender could be prevented from travelling overseas – through foreign travel orders – from the current six months.
Offenders would be required to give greater prior notification of overseas travel and offenders subjected to a blanket foreign travel order will have their passport taken away.
Smith also said the government would make it easier for police to acquire a sexual offences prevention order, which restricts the movement of sex offenders in specified ways. Currently, officers can only rely on evidence of risk from the previous six months, and Smith indicated this limit would be increased.
NCH safeguarding officer Cathryn Henchion said: “These moves will help protect vulnerable children around the world from coming to harm at the hands of abusers.”
The announcement coincided with the release of ex-pop star Gary Glitter – real name Paul Gadd – from a Vietnam jail after being convicted of sexually abusing two young girls. Smith commented: “This is not about an individual case, this is about strengthening our regime overall.”
The proposals followed claims from child protection charity Ecpat that the government had failed to prevent child sex tourism. A report last week by the charity, Return to Sender, found that the UK had only prosecuted five sex offenders for child sexual abuse abroad since 1997, compared to 50 in the US and 25 in Australia.
Director Christine Beddoe called for offenders to be brought back to the UK and put on the sex offenders register immediately after their release. She added: “The government must take immediate steps to develop bi-lateral co-operation agreements and joint investigations with other countries to return sex offenders to the UK and give clear guidance on when travel bans should be used to protect the world’s most vulnerable children.”