Linda Colling: Know your new boyfriend’s past

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DO you know who you are living with? Frighteningly, more women are discovering the man in their life is a convicted sex offender.

 Of course you would know, wouldn’t you? That’s what most people would say. But why would you? And especially if no-one tells you.

 That’s why I’m incensed that certain agencies know a man’s background, but stay silent because it is interpreted as a breach of his human rights and data protection to tell the woman he is now with, even though there might be children in the house. It is totally wrong that she remains in ignorance of his evil past.

 This is a burning issue for Wearside Women In Need (WWIN), which in the last year is increasingly picking up the pieces of women who have known nothing until Social Services arrived at their door saying: “It’s him or the children.”

 What a bombshell, and very often that’s only because he is on fresh charges of sex abuse.

 WWIN has, and still is, arguing that it is so very wrong that officials should know more about a woman’s life than she does.  

 To counter this wall of silence, Clare Phillipson, boss of WWIN, has this rallying call: “We are advising men and women with children starting a new relationship to use the Northumbria Police Force to demand information.

 “You have to think the worst if you want to protect your children, because we have to remember that most children are killed or sexually abused by someone known to them.”

 Under a new scheme you can demand such information, and in some cases, find out if that person is on the sex offender’s register.

 Very many only wish they had.

 One mother of two, who, for 14 years, lived with a man she had no idea was a convicted sex offender.

 She only discovered the truth when fresh complaints were made.

 And so I applaud warehouseman, Chris Wittwer, 35, who has launched the world’s largest database of convicted UK paedophiles to save others from the sexual abuse he suffered as a child. By the time Chris was nine he had been abused by five different people.

 His website names and shames some 10,800 paedophiles, and he is all set to go into secondary schools, including ones in our region, to make children aware of the dangers of grooming on the internet, as well as staging road shows throughout the country.

 Within this website is a world of corruption, despicable acts and crimes committed against children. Chris told me: “People don’t realise who is living near them, or even with them.”

 It has taken him three years of research, and the website has been checked by the police and viewed by the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements.

 He says by uniting campaigners across the UK, this is set to be the biggest fight against child abuse this country has ever seen.

 Chris, who lives in Devon, said: “Child sexual abuse is a taboo subject that nobody talks about. This needs to change.”

 Too true. And high time the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) released the acclaimed film it commissioned to be shown in schools to warn girls about the dangers of on-street grooming for sexual exploitation.

 Two years on and the UKHTC is still witholding the 20-minute drama, My Dangerous Loverboy.

 Why? The Centre has been criticised over the “endless delay” and strongly denied that racial sensitivities linked to the film’s two main characters had played any part.

 Jade’s a young white girl of 14, lured by Raz, an Asian man of 27, into a sordid world of drink and drugs who sells her for sex to older men.

 Meanwhile, hiding behind their computers, perverts are using Facebook as their happy hunting ground.

 That’s a chilling fact parents ignore at their peril.

 And if you think differently, log on to www.chris-uk.org.