Loophole which has allowed at least 11,000 sex offenders to change their name to be closed

29 November 2023, 15:58 | Updated: 29 November 2023, 16:31

The campaign for Della's law has been spearheaded by child sexual abuse survivor Della Wright.
The campaign for Della's law has been spearheaded by child sexual abuse survivor Della Wright. Picture: LBC
Charlotte Lynch

By Charlotte Lynch

A legal loophole which has allowed at least 11,000 sex offenders to change their name and avoid detection is to be closed, the Home Secretary has announced.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

James Cleverly said the Government will amend the Criminal Justice Bill to prevent paedophiles and rapists from changing their name by deed poll "in certain circumstances".

The sickening yet simple practice has allowed sex offenders to obtain new passports and driving licenses, and present as an entirely different person without a criminal record.

It follows a five-year-long campaign for "Della's Law", led by child sexual abuse survivor Della Wright, who was abused from the age of six by a man who was already a well-known perpetrator.

Ms Wright told LBC: "He went on to change his name five times, and over five decades he continued to abuse children. "When I went to court in 2017, he actually changed his name again just to delay the process. We had to go back and do all of the paperwork again, wasting the courts time, and letting me know that he still held the power all of these years later.

"It's bad enough you've gone through the abuse, but for the system to allow them to continue to abuse you and hold the power - I was gobsmacked. Once I'd been through that court process I just knew I had to do something about it, because nobody should have to go through that."

Della said the law change was "welcome news", but stressed it needed to be implemented properly.

READ MORE: Rishi Sunak does not believe Brexit is 'in peril' despite calls from EU chief Ursula von der Leyen for it to be reversed

READ MORE: Nottingham City Council declares itself 'bankrupt' with £23m funding gap

Della Wright outlines the law that's been passed preventing sex offenders from changing their names

There are now calls for a full review of the known cases where a sexual offender has legally changed their name, because "we just do not know where they are".

The Home Office confirmed that over 16,000 offenders were charged between 2015 and 2020, after failing to tell the authorities their details, such as their name and address, had changed.

The Safeguarding Alliance found over 11,500 registered sex offenders were prosecuted for failure to notify changes of information between 2019 and 2022.

The organisation, which campaigned for the implementation of Della's Law, told LBC it's now urging the government to investigate each case to ensure authorities know their whereabouts.

Chief Executive Officer Emily Konstantas told LBC: "That's just those that have been caught - what about those that haven't been caught?

"I can confidently say there are registered sex offenders that have been able to evade justice and continue to offend because of this loophole, all whilst we've been campaigning to get it closed.

"We now need to have a full review of where the sex offenders are that may have already changed their name, because I don't actually think that [10,000] number is quantifiable at the moment, we just do not know where they are."

Safeguarding Alliance CEO on the next steps after a loophole which benefited sux offenders is closed

Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham, who has been repeatedly raising the issue in Parliament for three years and submitted an amendment calling for the law change, said: "After years of campaigning, I’m delighted the Government has finally accepted my law change to stop registered sex offenders changing their names to avoid detection.

"This is a huge safeguarding loophole, which currently undermines DBS checks and Clare’s Law, which allows women to check if their partner has a history of abuse.

"I wish the Government had acted sooner, but the new law will be a massive step forward in protecting the public from known offenders.

"I pay tribute to survivors and charities who have campaigned hard to make this day a reality and I give my assurance that I will work with the Government to make sure this can work in practice."