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Violent and Sex Offender Register: Disclosure of Information

Volume 474: debated on Tuesday 22 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the Written Ministerial Statement of 18 February 2008, Official Report, columns 2-4WS, on tackling violence, how she will ensure that members of the public to whom child sex offenders’ convictions are disclosed do not pass that information on to others; whether such people will be allowed to pass the information on to (a) other family members and (b) other categories of people; what (i) documentary and (ii) other evidence people will be required to provide to be entitled to receive information on convictions; when the scheme will come into effect; what restrictions there will be on disclosure of information; what guidance she will provide to police on disclosure of information; and what convictions will be disclosable. (196643)

The Review of the Protection of Children from Sex Offenders, referred to in the ministerial statement, included two actions relating to the disclosure of information on child sex offenders’ convictions to the public. Implementation of Action 3 of the review will introduce a legal duty on MAPPA responsible authorities to consider the disclosure of information about convicted child sex offenders to members of the public. Under Action 4 a separate process will be piloted whereby members of the public will be able to register their child protection interest in a named individual and receive information on any convictions for child sex offences that individual may have, where appropriate.

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill will amend the Criminal Justice Act 2003 to impose a duty on MAPPA responsible authorities to consider disclosure of a child sex offender’s convictions to members of the public. The convictions that the MAPPA authorities must consider disclosing are set out at schedule 24 to the Bill. However, under their common law powers, the police are able to disclose details of other convictions in appropriate circumstances (see R v. Chief Constable of North Wales ex parte Thorpe (1998) 3 AII ER 310). The extent of the information disclosed will be decided on a case by case basis.

The MAPPA authorities will decide who, if anyone, should be provided with the information, and will be able to impose conditions, in order to prevent further dissemination of the information. Under the Bill, the MAPPA authorities will have discretion as to the extent of the conditions that they impose. When imposing such conditions, the MAPPA authorities will need to be mindful of their obligations under the Human Rights Act 1998 and what is necessary and proportionate to prevent harm to the child or children concerned.

Existing statutory MAPPA guidance will be updated to take account of the new statutory duty to consider disclosure.

In deciding whether to disclose details of convictions for child sex offences to a member of the public under the pilot scheme, MAPPA meetings will consider the risk of the recipient disclosing this information to others. Before a disclosure is made, the intended recipient will be required to sign a declaration that they will not share this information with others.

Applicants for disclosure under the pilot scheme will be asked to provide documentary proof such as the child’s birth certificate to demonstrate their relationship with the child with respect to whom they are declaring a child protection interest.

The Government will ensure that the police are issued with comprehensive guidance on all stages of the pilot process, and are currently working with the four force areas participating in the pilot to develop the disclosure process.

The extent of information disclosed under the pilot process will be considered on a case by cases basis by the MAPPA authorities.

It is intended that the statutory duty will come into force following Royal Assent being given to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, by means of a Commencement Order. It is intended that the pilots will commence this summer.