Figures have revealed that one in five suspected or convicted child sex offenders who travel overseas take occupations that give them access to kids. They may be banned from working with youngsters in the UK, but are able to work in schools and children organisations abroad because they lack access to criminal record checks. Now the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) agency says that a new police system for nationals in the UK who are volunteering or working overseas will help identify previously convicted offenders so they are banned from working with kids.
Ceop chief executive Peter Davies says that the International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC) will be a global safeguard for voluntary organisations and employers. This comes as the agency revealed that 14 of the 75 sex offenders travelling from the UK and investigated by them last year were found to be involved in roles that give them access to children. They have carried out 1,235 such probes since 2006, and every year between 7% and 19% involved offenders who had access to youngsters while overseas.
The new system follows cases similar to that of Andrew Eden, a child sex offender who escaped to Mexico and became an English teacher after being release from a UK prison. He had been jailed in 2001 for four years after being convicted of molesting a 7-year-old girl. He was also put on a licence for three more years. However, when he was released in 2003, he didn’t tell authorities about his whereabouts and faced being jailed again. However, he ran away to Mexico and worked in schools. After his details were put on the Ceop’s Most Wanted site, he was extradited back to Britain in 2009.
The ICPC will allow organisations who work with children overseas to access criminal conviction histories of people who have lived in Britain. The certificate will take about ten days to process applications and help deal with cases like the one with Eden.
Davies says evidence clearly suggests that serious sex offenders who are known in the UK to authorities will often seek opportunities to volunteer or work overseas. In many cases, these roles will be teaching or through other jobs like an orphanage, charity or home worker. The ICPC is intended to be a worldwide safeguard to give voluntary organisations and employers reassurance that applications haven’t been convicted in the UK for anything that would make them unsuitable to work with kids. He’s confident the certificate will become an important placement or pre-employment check to protect youngsters overseas from offenders.
The ACPO Criminal Records Office worked with the Ceop to develop the ICPC. Superintendent Phil Winchester says the certificate will provided a huge opportunity to afford protection for kids across the globe. It’s been developed to ensure organisations can get information to help protect youngsters from sexual offenders who would seek to abuse their roles of trust.
Meanwhile, police are concerned that as many as 60,000 paedophiles are sharing revolting photos of child abuse on the internet. Ceop head of intelligence Andy Morling has warned that hundreds of millions of these images have been confiscated by police over the last two years, with between 50,000 and 60,000 people thought to be trading the pictures.