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Database of charity sex predators to be launched

Britain will release a database of suspected sex predators working in the foreign aid sector

Britain will soon release a worldwide register of suspected sexual predators working in the aid sector, the International Development Secretary has announced.

Penny Mordaunt will unveil the database of suspects as part of the “concentrated global efforts” to clean up after the foreign aid sex misconduct, including Oxfam Executives using prostitutes in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and the sex-for-food scandal.

Mordaunt will give details of the database, dubbed Soteria after the Greek goddess of protection, when she opens an international safeguarding meeting. This follows months of media revelations, first started when The Times reported on Oxfam’s behaviour.

“What we have been doing since The Times report is asking, how do we clean up the sector? How do we ensure that predatory individuals who think this sector is a soft touch are found, held to account and prosecuted?” Mordaunt told The Times.

This comes as it’s found that 600 children have been harmed while in the care of UK charities. Charities have submitted a total of 2,114 reports of serious cases relating to safeguarding incidents since the Oxfam sex abuse scandal, which is a third higher than the whole of last year and equivalent to ten serious incidents a day.

The project has the backing of a $UK2 million investment in British aid cash. It will utilise Interpol’s green-notice system, which issues international alerts over those who are “considered to be a threat to public safety”.

Soteria will be the “one-stop shop” for non-government organisations to check the past records of employees and will operate from both Africa and Asia. NGOs will also be able to upload information on the register through a secure online portal.

Mordaunt said this follows concerns that sex offenders had deliberately targeted the aid sector to gain access to, and power over, vulnerable women and children. She said that the summit would herald a “culture change” for the sector.

This is in particular concern to how charities have reported on misbehaviour. Oxfam was found to have covered up the sex abuse in Haiti and failed to alert other NGOs about the individuals, including the charity’s director, who were suspected of sexually exploiting victims – including women and young children – of the 2010 earthquake.

“The most shocking thing was the inadequacy of that organisation’s response – the utter lack of moral compass as to what the right course of action was towards the victims and in allowing someone who shouldn’t have been in a positive of authority to transfer to other organisations,” Mordaunt said.

“The attitude and the culture set by 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. What you saw in Haiti was a complete abuse of power and cannot happen again.”

The database will be a mechanism for NGOs to access international criminal record checks and crime intelligence reports that led to new investigations being opened. Mordaunt said it was a “landmark initiative” to address predatory individuals who are moving between organisations, unknown to the charity.

She added that the commitment to changing the sector’s attitudes would see a rise in the safeguarding incidents being reported to authorities by charities. This comes as the Charity Commission found there is a “significant and systematic under-reporting of incidents by charities at home and abroad”.

“I have been very clear that when organisations report and their numbers go up, we don’t beat them up… Had Oxfam done the things that you would have expected – report properly, honour obligations to their donors, the Charity Commission and the beneficiaries, ensure that individuals of concern were not able to move on to other organisations – then it would not have had the crisis that ensued,” Mordaunt said.

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