UK launches global sex offender register
Government teams up with police and Interpol to track sex predators in the foreign aid sector
The UK has launched a pioneering global sex offender register aimed at rooting out sexual predators working in the aid sector.
Working in tandem with Interpol and the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Criminal Records Office (Acro), the Department for International Development (DFID) has launched a programme called Soteria, after the Greek goddess of protection. It aims to be a “one-stop shop” for charities to check the criminal records of present and potential employees.
The five-year project, which will be kickstarted with £2m of UK aid, will operate from two hubs in Africa and Asia, and harness Interpol’s green-notice system, which issues international alerts over those “considered to be a threat to public safety”.
The first year will focus on testing an online platform and will also provide a secure online profile to upload concerns about employees - who could be hit with travel restrictions if placed under investigation.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said the register was part of a “concerted global effort” to tackle the issue, which made headlines earlier this year after a scandal about sexual predators working for Oxfam and Save the Children led MPs to conclude abuse in the aid sector had reached “epidemic” levels.
It comes as a new report from the Charity Commission found that there was “significant and systemic” under-reporting of abuse by charities working in the UK and abroad.
Speaking to The Times, Mordaunt said “the most shocking thing [about the Oxfam scandal] was the inadequacy of that organisation’s response”.
“The attitude and the culture set by the leaders of that organisation at the time demanded a big response and that response had to be wider than one organisation because this is a global problem,” she said.
The programme will “raise awareness, toughen criminal record checks across the sector internationally, and improve information-sharing between law enforcement agencies”, says The Independent. DFID hopes it will stop abuse by preventing high-risk suspects from being hired and increasing the chances of them being arrested.