By James Bryce
NEARLY 850 registered sex offenders are on the run from police in the UK, raising fears that some may have fled to Spain.
Almost 700 of them have been missing for more than a year, with the number of offenders who have vanished more than doubling in just two years.
The figures have been released after a freedom of information request was put in by campaigners in the UK.
Currently the 37,000 people on the UK sex offenders register do not have to notify police if going on holiday for less than three days.
Spain has traditionally been seen as a safe haven for criminals looking to go undetected, particularly as the country has no sex offenders register.
Under Spanish law, offenders only receive an initial visit from police at their home and are not monitored or watched until they are suspected of a crime.
This has prompted fears that many British sex offenders simply disappear into the anonymity of large expat communities.
“They change their name and settle in a busy area around fellow tourists and expats and can live there undetected,” said a spokesman for the Independent Association of the Guardia Civil.
As Spain-based private detective Roy Whitehouse added: “Spain is traditionally a hideout for UK criminals as it is fairly easy to blend in.”
He added that they usually changed their appearance and used new names via fake passports.
The former Scotland Yard detective added: “It is vital to keep a close eye on anyone acting suspiciously with children, and immediately report any suspicious behaviour.”
Christine Beddoe, of child protection charity Ecpat UK, told the Olive Press in 2010: “We’ve got to stop these people from abusing children abroad.
“The police have the powers to stop them travelling. They must use them.”
The Olive Press has worked hard to identify wanted sex offenders over the last few years.
Anyone suspicious should visit www.crimestoppers.co.uk or contact [email protected] if you suspect anyone living near you.