Sex offender loophole closed

The government moved last night to close the loophole that allowed a registered sex offender to take a job teaching PE at a Norfolk school.

The government moved last night to close the loophole that allowed a registered sex offender to take a job teaching PE at a Norfolk school.

Paul Reeve was cleared by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to work at the Hewett School in Norwich, two years after being cautioned by police for accessing child pornography on the internet.

He was put on the sex offender register, but because he was not placed on List 99, which bans people from working with children, he was able to resume his PE teaching career.

When details of the case emerged in January, it sparked a storm that almost cost the then education secretary Ruth Kelly her job. After strong political pressure, she promised to “tighten the rules”.

That promise is expected to be delivered if the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups bill becomes law in the next few months.

In the meantime, ministers have published draft rules so anyone cautioned, as well as convicted, for sexual offences against children would automatically be barred.

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The regulations, set to go out for public consultation, include three ways to safeguard children:

automatic barring - over-18s cautioned or convicted for a sex offence against a child will go on List 99 and have no right of appeal for 10 years

automatic inclusion - over-18s cautioned or convicted for a sex offence against a child or adult will go on List 99. They would have the right to appeal, but would stay on the list during that process.

discretionary barring - in “certain circumstances” until the new system was introduced, with all decisions made by a panel of child protection experts led by Sir Roger Singleton, former head of Barnardo's.

Former Fakenham Town footballer Reeve, from Reepham, was cleared by the DfES in May 2005 to work in schools.

He was arrested in early 2003 when his credit card details were found after the US postal service smashed a website in Texas peddling images of child abuse.

The former head of PE at King Edward VII School in King's Lynn was only stopped from working at the Hewett School after police found out about his appointment and raised the alarm.