A Yorkshire MP has hit the headlines after starting a high-profile campaign to stop people convicted of sex offences from changing their names and falling off the radar. Deed poll paperwork, which allows anyone over the age of 18 to legally change their name and leave their old identity behind, costs as little as £42. The concern is that this loophole in the law permits sec offenders to change their name and move into a new job, potentially having access to more vulnerable adults or children.
Current legislation states that people who are convicted of sex offences must keep the police up to date with their address, and any changes to their names. If the ex-offender applies for a position which requires a DBS check, they are also required to state all previous identities they have used, which would obviously flag up older offences under their previous name. However, there is growing concern that offenders are simply changing their names and not informing the police.
DBS Checks and Changes of Identity
Anyone completing a DBS form has to declare all their previous names. The most common reason for having previous names is being married, or divorced, perhaps multiple times. Women who have changed their surnames through marriage and divorce simply state all the previous names they have used. Similarly, there are thousands of people who change their names by deed poll every year for w whole host of reasons. Having a name change on your DBS form is not necessarily an indication that there is anything sinister going on. But the onus is on the applicant for a DBS check to be honest about their previous names – without any details on the form, the Police cannot match the new name to any previous identities with convictions, and without any convictions in the current name, a DBS certificate will be clear.
New Clause in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
Sarah Champion, the MP for Rotherham, is pushing for changes to the legislation to address this issue and has support for her proposals from 41 MPs across the political spectrum. Ms Champion is calling for a change in the law which would require the Deed Poll office to check the background of anyone applying to legally change their name before issuing the legal paperwork. This should help flag up in the legal system if someone is trying to change their name to hide a past identity, rather than for other reasons. A further option is storing all deed poll information online, so that it can be routinely checked by the DBS or police forces across the country when someone applies for a DBS check. Having a private register of previous and current identities should eliminate the risk of someone with a criminal past changing their name to avoid detection by the DBS. With cross party support for her proposals, Ms Champion seems to have a good chance of securing a parliamentary debate on the subject at least.