There are far fewer than 850,000 registered sex offenders in the UK

6 September 2021
What was claimed

There are more than 850,000 registered sex offenders in the UK.

Our verdict

This is not true. A Freedom of Information request, published in May 2021, showed there were 95,844 people on the sex offenders register in England and Wales.

A post on Facebook, shared hundreds of times, wrongly claims there are more than 850,000 registered sex offenders in the UK. 

There are far fewer than 850,000 registered sex offenders in the UK 

In May, the National Crime Agency published an estimate which said there could be “between 550,000 and 850,000 people in the UK who pose varying forms of sexual risk to children”. The top end of this estimate was widely reported in the media

But this number does not represent the number of registered sex offenders in the UK, as the post claims. 

Also in May, the Telegraph reported figures from the Ministry of Justice, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, which stated there were 95,844 people on the sex offenders register in England and Wales in March 2021, while figures reported in the Scottish Sun state there were 4,358 registered sex offenders living in Scotland up to the end of March 2021. 

It’s important to note that the sex offenders register only covers people who have been cautioned for, or convicted of, sexual offences. The length of time an offender is on the register depends on their sentence. 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) annual Crime Survey for England and Wales, estimated that over the course of the the year ending March 2020, there were 773,000 adults aged 16 to 74 years who were victims of sexual assault (including attempts). 

People on the sex offenders register do not carry specific ID cards 

The Facebook post also claims that people on the sex offenders register “don’t carry a card because it violates their privacy”.

There is no specific ID that declares a person to be on the sex offenders register. 

However, a person on the register must disclose a long list of personal details including National Insurance number, passport details and bank account and credit card details. 

All registered sex offenders are subject to Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA), through which they are assessed to establish the level of risk of harm they pose to the public. 

MAPPA can cover conditions like living at approved premises, being subject to exclusion zones in certain towns or cities and, in very extreme circumstances, covert monitoring of offenders. 

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as partly false because there are not more than 850,000 registered child sex offenders in the UK. The National Crime Agency said earlier in 2021 that there could be up to 850,000 people in the UK who posed a sexual risk to children, but these are not registered offenders.

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