Almost 400 sex offenders changed name in 18-month period, figures show

The Scottish Conservatives said doing so allowed registered offenders to ‘hide in plain sight’.

Almost 400 sex offenders changed name in 18-month period, figures show PA Media

Almost 400 registered sex offenders have changed their name since 2022, figures show.

Statistics released by Police Scotland to the Scottish Conservatives under freedom of information legislation show that between April 1, 2022 and October 31, 2023, 392 people on the register notified the force of a change of name.

In the 2022-23 financial year, 241 notifications were made, while 151 people alerted police between April 1 and the end of October last year.

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Russell Findlay said changing their name has allowed sex offenders to “hide in plain sight”.

He said: “Hundreds more registered sex offenders in Scotland have been legally able to change their names.

“People who they meet in daily life, especially those they have relationships with, are deprived of knowing who they really are.

“Being placed on the sex offenders register is not done lightly and it is clearly wrong for them to be able to hide in plain sight in this way.

“Having first called on SNP ministers to close this dangerous loophole two years ago, nothing has happened.

“The Government says that public protection measures are sufficient, but that claim is simply untrue.

“These alarming new figures demonstrate the growing scale of this problem. Does there need to be another tragic crime before action is taken?”

The Tories have pushed for those on the register to be barred from changing their names while still subject to notification requirements.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “People are legally entitled to change their name, and this includes registered sex offenders (RSOs).

“However, under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, Section 84, RSOs are required, within three days, to notify the use of a name which has not previously been notified to police.

“Failure to do so is an offence punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.

“We proactively and robustly enforce the sex offender notification requirements and ensure all breaches are reported to the Procurator Fiscal.

“Public safety is a top priority and in Scotland robust multi-agency public protection arrangements (MAPPA), provide a comprehensive response to a complex issue, using professional assessment and management to properly target resources at those who pose a risk to the public.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Police Scotland have confirmed that these relate to a notification in relation to name which is not the same as an individual changing name.

“Examples of a name change notification could reflect a smaller number of individuals having to change forms of registered name including new email address, gym membership, drivers licence.

“Sex offender notification requirements apply to an individual, irrespective of what name they use.

“Police Scotland must always be notified of name change under current arrangements and the vast majority of registered sex offenders comply with the notification requirements imposed upon them.

“Swift action is taken by the police in the minority of cases that do not comply, with those in breach facing penalties of up to five years in prison.

“We are aware that the UK Government are proposing legislative change in this area and despite repeated requests by the Scottish Government we have only recently received the detail of the proposed amendments to name change in the Criminal Justice Bill.

“We are giving serious and detailed consideration to these legislative proposals.”

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