M619 - Enrolment of Deeds Reform Motion 2020 (Second Reading)

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Andrew97
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M619 - Enrolment of Deeds Reform Motion 2020 (Second Reading) - LPK MP

A recent investigation by Sky News has found that over 1,300 sex offenders have changed their name since their criminal conviction. More worryingly, 16 police forces report over 900 cases of convicted sex offenders having changed their name and failing to alert the authorities. The true number is believed to be higher, as 27 police forces could not provide the necessary information when requested. 1

Currently, it is a criminal offence for any individuals on the Violent and Sex Offender Register (ViSOR) to not declare their change of name to the police within three days. 2 However, it is clear that the current approach is not working and presents significant loopholes by allowing dangerous individuals to conceal their former identity. This fundamentally undermines the integrity of disclosure schemes such as Sarah's law and Clare's law, which can only inform members of the public about an offender's past if it knows the complete history of a person. It is clear that reforms are needed to deed poll regulations so that a court is informed about the criminal history of an applicant, and can either reject their application or alert the appropriate authorities if the deed poll of a relevant offender is approved.

This motion calls upon the Government to enact the following reforms:

  • Reform the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) so that an individual who is of the age of criminal responsibility can request an 'enhanced with a barred list' check for themself 3 for the purpose of completing their deed poll application. Alternatively, if the applicant is between 10 and 17 years of age, their parent or guardian can request the DBS check on their behalf.
  • Require the deed poll applicant to submit their DBS certificate alongside other necessary documentation. 4 5
  • Allow the court to either reject a deed poll application if it believes it to be against the public interest, or
  • Mandate that any successful deed poll applications by a person on the Violent and Sex Offender Register be notified by the court to the appropriate authorities.


By enacting these reforms, this will move us away from trusting the offender to alert the authorities, and will instead ensure that courts and police effectively liaise to protect the general public. Deed polls should not enable an offender's desire to conceal their past, especially when their former behaviour makes them a potential threat to vulnerable groups in our society. It is vital that deed polls do not challenge the effectiveness of disclosure schemes designed to inform and protect the wider public, and it is clear that the current approach presents a significant loophole which undermines the goals of such schemes.

Changes from First Reading to Second Reading:
- The first recommendation has been reworded to clarify who would be entitled to request an enhanced DBS check.
- The second and third clause have been merged together to avoid repetition.
- I have tweaked the language on clause 1 to also clarify a parent/guardian can request a DBS check on their child's behalf.
- Replaced the link for source 2 with the exact statute from the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Sources:
1 - https://news.sky.com/story/more-than-900-sex-offenders-disappear-from-police-radar-with-many-changing-their-names-and-not-telling-officers-12036341
2 - https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/42/section/84
3/4 - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/dbs-check-requests-guidance-for-employers#types-of-dbs-checks-and-how-to-apply
5 - https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1994/604/made
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SnowMiku
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It's still an Aye.
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Bailey14
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Still supportive of this motion.
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Aph
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Whilst this is better, and apologies if I missed this last debate, I'm not convinced by the blocking of a deep poll by the court. Simply because I believe that people deserve a fresh start.
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Theloniouss
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Still an aye from me
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Miss Maddie
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Aye, it's preferable to the status quo.

I'd still rather a blanket ban on name changes for serious criminals.
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LiberOfLondon
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Still Aye.
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LPK
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(Original post by Aph)
Whilst this is better, and apologies if I missed this last debate, I'm not convinced by the blocking of a deep poll by the court. Simply because I believe that people deserve a fresh start.
I would emphasise on this point that it's there as an option, which is itself an affirmation of maintaining the status quo on that. The courts already can block deed polls under certain circumstances, and so the Government would need to consider the impact this new document could have as it looked to implement these reforms. If a DBS check were to potentially show something which could cause an application to fall into that grey area, there will need to be some sort of guidance on how to handle that scenario. As an example, if there's something on the form which may suggest they may be changing their name to evade, rather than to have a fresh start, then the court will need to be able to ascertain the difference. That particular example goes far beyond the issue of ViSOR, as there are a wide variety of ways which the DBS could cause an application to fall into a grey area, such as debt and fraud related issues. If somebody is trying to run away from their financial obligations, there may be something on the certificate which signposts to that, and so there are reasons why there may need to be some guidance on how the court is expected to navigate the presence of the new document when weighing it against their existing standards for approving and rejecting applications. As yet another example, if a person with an existing sexual offences record is applying for a deed poll at the same time they're being investigated for potentially new charges, there are questions there about whether they're actually seeking a fresh start or not.

On a personal level, I do lean towards Maddie's preference on this and would rather the court simply blocked name changes for those who are registered sex offenders or violent offenders. However, I'm deliberately putting that to one side because there are wider legal issues which would need to be considered there, and that takes us quite a bit away from the actual topic itself.
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Aph
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(Original post by LPK)
I would emphasise on this point that it's there as an option, which is itself an affirmation of maintaining the status quo on that. The courts already can block deed polls under certain circumstances, and so the Government would need to consider the impact this new document could have as it looked to implement these reforms. If a DBS check were to potentially show something which could cause an application to fall into that grey area, there will need to be some sort of guidance on how to handle that scenario. As an example, if there's something on the form which may suggest they may be changing their name to evade, rather than to have a fresh start, then the court will need to be able to ascertain the difference. That particular example goes far beyond the issue of ViSOR, as there are a wide variety of ways which the DBS could cause an application to fall into a grey area, such as debt and fraud related issues. If somebody is trying to run away from their financial obligations, there may be something on the certificate which signposts to that, and so there are reasons why there may need to be some guidance on how the court is expected to navigate the presence of the new document when weighing it against their existing standards for approving and rejecting applications. As yet another example, if a person with an existing sexual offences record is applying for a deed poll at the same time they're being investigated for potentially new charges, there are questions there about whether they're actually seeking a fresh start or not.

On a personal level, I do lean towards Maddie's preference on this and would rather the court simply blocked name changes for those who are registered sex offenders or violent offenders. However, I'm deliberately putting that to one side because there are wider legal issues which would need to be considered there, and that takes us quite a bit away from the actual topic itself.
Can you give a link to the guidance that courts have on blocking deed polls? I can’t find anything from a cursory search. I’m also not sure what ViSOR means...

I’m also not sure how one could change their name to avoid debt, the courts would still know who they are and name changes are a matter of public record...

As for your other example, the concept of innocent until proven guilty rings true here.

As for your final comment, a 16 year old having sex with a 15 year old would be something which gets your name on the register. I’m sure that there are many other minor incidents and maybe even miscarriages of justice that get people on it too.
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abucha3
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Aye, I think this seems fairly sensible
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El Salvador
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Looks good
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LPK
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Just a quick message to let the House know I will need to withdraw this motion and go back to the drawing board to strengthen the reforms needed to rectify this issue properly. In locating the guidance documents Aph requested above, I came across some important factors related to unenrolled deeds which would still leave the same vulnerabilities that this motion aims to address with the enrolled deeds. Rather than proceed with a motion which advocates for reforms which only partially address the loophole, I need to spend some time reviewing this issue and come up with something more thorough so that the changes are meaningful and properly fix the loophole.

I'm going to look at getting a bill crafted to try and tackle this, so I guess this is a 'watch this space' in the meantime. Thanks for the comments peeps. I'll keep the comments in mind as I look to build a bill.

Andrew97, can this be withdrawn please?
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shadowdweller
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I know this is being withdrawn, but assuming any necessary changes are made, I'd be in support of this if it came back for another reading/as a new bill
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Aph
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Well I'm glad that my questioning had been useful.
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Andrew97
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Withdrawn as per the above.
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