Paedophiles could be subject to stricter movement controls, says Smith
Home secretary announces changes including increasing length of time child-sex offenders can be banned from travelling abroad
Gary Glitter at the time of his conviction for child molestation in Vietnam in 2006
Gary Glitter at the time of his conviction in 2006. Photograph: Julian Abram Wainwright/EPA
Jacqui Smith today announced that convicted paedophiles could be subject to much stricter movement controls.
The changes to the rules include increasing the length of time child-sex offenders can be banned from travelling abroad and making it easier for the police to obtain orders curbing activities in the UK.
Ministers are also considering increasing the age limit to 18 for youngsters deemed at risk when travel restrictions are being sought.
Legislation will be brought forward shortly to introduce new powers where necessary.
Children’s campaigners welcomed the measures, announced as Gary Glitter, the former pop star, was released from a Vietnamese jail after serving two years and nine months for abusing two girls.
The latest moves follow talks with police and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency (CEOP).
Smith announced today that the length of foreign travel orders for paedophiles would be increased from six months to up to five years.
The requirement on police seeking sexual-offences prevention orders to provide evidence from the last six months will also be removed.
Those subject to blanket travel bans will also have their passports automatically confiscated.
There will also be a consultation on further restrictions on the validity of paedophiles’ passports and their issuance.
Foreign travel orders may also be available where children under 18, rather than under 16 at present, are in danger.
Smith, the home secretary, said: “The UK has a rigorous system in place for managing child sex offenders which is among the toughest in the world.
“The changes I’m announcing today will strengthen that even further. I want to see anyone who poses a threat to our children dealt with as firmly as possible.
“I’ve spoken to child protection experts and the police and they have told me that these changes will further restrict the ability of child-sex offenders to harm children both here and overseas.
“I will legislate for these measures as soon as possible.”
NSPCC policy advisor Zoe Hilton said: “These measures are a crucial step forward and should help clamp down on sex tourism.
“We have been consistently saying that when there is clear evidence a sex offender poses a risk, the authorities must have effective powers to stop them from going abroad.
“But if they do travel there must be better systems in place to monitor and track their movements.
“The UK government has a crucial role to play in working more closely with other governments and police to keep sex offenders on the radar and bring those who commit sexual crimes against children to justice.”
Catheryn Henchion, safeguarding officer at children’s charity NCH, said: “These moves will help protect vulnerable children around the world from coming to harm at the hands of abusers.
“It is essential that we work as an international community to reach a point where there are no safe havens for those abusers and thus ensuring that a child, no matter where they are growing up, can be as safe as possible.”
Commenting on the case of Glitter – whose real name is Paul Gadd – Smith said his was the type of situation where it was “pretty hard to imagine it would be legitimate for him to travel abroad again”.
She told GMTV: “I don’t want any sex offenders in this country, but the point is, Vietnamese officials have deported him to the UK, so, as we do whenever sex offenders return to this country, we need to plan … for what happens when people return.”
She added: “Never mind his individual case, anybody who is returning to the UK in these sorts of circumstances would be met at the airport by police officers, would be served with an order which effectively puts them on to the sex offenders register.”