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Cleverly outlines amendment plan to prevent sex offenders changing their names

Home Secretary James Cleverly (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Home Secretary James Cleverly (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Sex offenders will be prevented from changing their names in “certain circumstances”, the Home Secretary has said.

James Cleverly said the Government intends to amend the Criminal Justice Bill as he reassured MPs that the Government remains committed to taking action.

Tory former home secretary Suella Braverman had previously confirmed she would bring forward a new law aimed at preventing registered sex offenders from “changing their identities”.

But concerns were raised in the Commons about the Government’s failure to include it in the original version of the legislation.

Speaking during the second reading debate on the Bill, Mr Cleverly said: “The Government will also bring forward amendments to the Bill to restrict the ability of registered sex offenders to change their names in certain circumstances.”

Intervening, Labour MP Sarah Champion (Rotherham) said: “I’m incredibly grateful that the Home Secretary is bringing forward legislation around sex offenders changing their names by default but we couldn’t find it on the face of the Bill, so is there a reason that there’s a lag happening with this?”

In response, Mr Cleverly said: “It’s because we’ll have to bring it through as an amendment, I can assure her that we are committed to making this work.”

Earlier this year, Ms Champion raised concerns of a loophole in the law which allows sex offenders to ignore the statutory requirement to notify the police of any name change.

Reacting to Mr Cleverly’s comments on Tuesday, Ms Champion paid tribute to campaigners before noting: “I really hope the minister will work with me and others to get this legislation right and get it right quickly to protect everyone.”

The Bill as a whole will force criminals to attend their sentencing hearings, after killer nurse Lucy Letby refused to leave her cell.

It will also give police powers to enter a property without a court warrant to seize stolen goods such as phones tracked through GPS technology and criminalises the sharing of intimate images and allows the transfer of prisoners in and out of England and Wales to serve their sentence abroad.

Mr Cleverly suggested further changes could be made to deal with intimate images shared online without permission.

He said the Bill will build on measures in the Online Safety Act by introducing new offences addressing the “taking and recording of intimate images or films without consent”.

Conservative former minister Dame Maria Miller, intervening, said: “There is one further aspect that some victims of intimate image abuse still face, which is their images are still legally online and not taken down by some website providers.”

Dame Maria asked if a minister could meet her to discuss the issue, with Mr Cleverly replying: “I’m more than happy to ensure that the point she has just raised is discussed with the department and we see what we can do to incorporate what she hopes to achieve either through this Bill or through guidance to internet service providers and online platforms.”

Conservative former home secretary Dame Priti Patel said of the clause to allow police to enter properties without a warrant if they have reasonable proof stolen items are inside: “We need to understand how these powers will work.”

She added: “This is early stage and obviously this will go through committee, it will go through scrutiny, but I think there are questions here to be addressed and answered.”

Conservative former policing minister Kit Malthouse said he shared “slight misgivings” about this, adding: “Like her, I share a nervousness about breaching what has been a long-standing settlement with the British people about their own privacy and the ability of the police to invade it.”

Labour said it will call for changes to the Bill to protect retail staff from being attacked by thieves.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “We have got shop staff who are petrified to go to work when there are 850 incidents a day of violence and abuse against shop workers.”

While she welcomed the Government’s agreement to make assault on shopworkers an aggravated offence, she claimed more needed to be done to prevent the incidents from happening.

The Labour frontbencher also said more needed to be done to prevent knife crime, telling MPs: “I would urge the Home Secretary to look at having a proper offence of child criminal exploitation to prevent people drawing children into criminal activity in the first place, and also stronger action on the online loopholes, the way that online marketplaces can still sell knives.”