Britain Accused of Going Easy on British Paedophiles Abroad

by VR Sreeraman on Aug 19 2008 2:48 PM

A new study has found that British paedophiles gain access to children abroad because foreign orphanages and schools cannot conduct UK criminal record checks.

The study said the that the UK Government had "turned a blind eye" to child sex offenders who travel or work abroad, placing thousands of children at risk, with "repeat offenders travelling from country to country and flagrantly avoiding the stringent sex offender mechanisms in the UK".

The track record in Britain as far as prosecuting paedophiles is very dismal, as it has prosecuted only five, sex offenders for child sexual abuse abroad since 1997, and none since 2005, while the US has prosecuted more than 50, and Australia more than 25. But the report, by Ecpat UK, a coalition of children's charities, pointed out that Britons figure prominently in international child abuse statistics, with at least 15 British nationals charged in Thailand over the past two years for the sexual abuse of children, and others prosecuted in India, Ghana, Cambodia and Albania, reported The Guardian.

The report said: "Many of them have been teachers or volunteers in orphanages. Currently, schools and organisations abroad have no mechanism for undertaking pre-employment checks for checking the suitability of working with children through UK criminal records or other sources. This is a major gap in the protection of vulnerable children."

Ecpat UK Director Christine Beddoe said: "Offenders are always trying to find new ways to access vulnerable children. The easiest way to do that is to get into the school or orphanage system - once you've got a job, you've got an employment history and can travel from country to country. By not allowing international organisations access to the information we hold we are putting children at risk and allowing offenders to operate without fear."

The report also called for chaperones to ensure convicted sex offenders do not abscond during their return to the UK, as long-haul flights often include stop-off landings.

The charity also recommended more joint investigations between police forces and a review of foreign travel orders, which restrict the movements of high-risk sex offenders. Only three have ever been issued for child sex offenders, compared with more than 3000 for football hooligans, the report pointed out.

"There is something fundamentally wrong about the current attitude to risk and harm to children abroad when these figures are shown side by side," said the report released after the study.

New measures came into force last month allowing paedophiles who abuse children abroad to be prosecuted in Britain, regardless of whether the abuse was legal in the host country. "This sends a strong message to so-called sex tourists that they won't get away with targeting other countries with less strict controls than the UK," the Home Office said, and added: "From the autumn, we also intend to make registered sex offenders notify the police of any travel abroad.

Presently, sex offenders have to notify police if they will be abroad for three days or more."