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Monday, 26 June, 2000, 22:18 GMT 23:18 UK
Sex offender loophole targeted
Children in playground
Paedophiles convicted abroad do not have to register in the UK
Police could be given new powers to track paedophiles and other dangerous sex offenders convicted abroad, Home Office minister Charles Clarke has said.

At present paedophiles convicted abroad who later return to the UK do not have to register with the British police.

This review will help us identify any areas of weakness, however small, to make sure that everything that can be done is done

Charles Clarke MP
But the loophole could be closed following a review of the way the register operates, announced on Monday by Mr Clarke.

Officials are also to recommend that those given conditional discharges for minor sex crimes also be placed on the register for the first time in their review of the 1997 Sex Offenders Act, he said.

The move has been welcomed by police chiefs and child protection campaigners.

Six major charities are backing a campaign by the End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking group (Ecpat) for the law to be tightened to offer protection against known, but unlisted, offenders.

Serious offenders jailed for more than 30 months must register for life, while adults convicted of minor offences like kerb-crawling are put on for five years.

Thousands on register

However, those given conditional discharges are excluded from the register, which can be used by police hunting missing children.

The new Sex Offenders Act, introduced three years ago, enabled authorities in the UK to prosecute people who abused children overseas.

But it did not allow for paedophiles convicted abroad to be added to the register.

The review group will examine every aspect of the way the register operates, including whether communities should be told of offenders living in their midst.

Officials will consider whether those committing some crimes currently excluded, such as indecent exposure, should be placed on the register.

Harsher penalties for the small number who fail to notify the police and tougher registration procedures could also be proposed.

Mr Clarke said that with over 12,000 sex offenders on the register, it had already been a success.

However, he added: "We are never complacent, particularly where the safety of our children is concerned.

"This review will help us identify any areas of weakness, however small, to make sure that everything that can be done is done."

The review group's findings will form the basis of a consultation document after officials have reported to ministers at the end of the year.

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