Govt plans to monitor potential offenders

Doctors and charity workers could be required by law to alert police to potential offenders, under new draft proposals from the Home Office.

The Times newspaper received a leaked Whitehall document which recommends a raft of public bodies share information to highlight potential violent offenders and victims.

Proposals for an extensive data-gathering and sharing operation have been circulated around Whitehall by Simon King, head of the violent crime unit at Home Office.

It would require charity workers, council staff and doctors to inform police or Home Office officials if they believed a person could go on to commit a violent crime.

Potential indicators could include family history, heavy drinking or mental health problems. However, it has not yet defined what constitutes a violent crime, what would trigger the initial report, or what action would then follow.

Civil liberties campaigners warn so-called potential offenders could be monitored or detained before they have committed any crime.

The document states: “Public bodies will have access to valuable information about people at risk of becoming either perpetrators or victims of serious violence. Professionals will obviously alert police or other relevant authority if they have good reason to believe [an] act of serious violence is about to be committed.

“However, our proposal goes beyond that, and is that, when they become sufficiently concerned about an individual, they must consider initial risk assessment of risk to/from that person, and refer [the] case to [a] multi-agency body.”

At present public employees do not have a duty to inform the police of a potential risk. New laws would need to be created to put this requirement in place.

Two agencies could also be created, one to collect information on potential criminals and one for potential victims. They would be responsible for carrying out risk assessments.

A Home Office spokesman insisted the proposals are at an early stage and no decision has yet been made. However, he added the department has a duty to protect the public.

Supporters claim the requirement would improve information sharing, and could prevent a future crime such as the Soham murders.

However, Jago Russell from Liberty asked how far people should be willing to go “in pursuit of the unrealistic promise of a ‘risk-free society’?”