• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Oxford sex offender gets permission to use alias online


Sep 7, 2022

A convicted sex offender will be allowed to use an alias online – making it harder for people to learn about his chequered history with the courts.

Joshua de Banks, who has changed his name by deed poll to Hunter Swift, told a judge at Oxford Crown Court yesterday (September 6): “All it takes is for someone to Google my name and I get attacked instantly.”

The 24-year-old was given an indefinite sexual harm prevention order in 2019 after he was convicted of sharing explicit messages with a vulnerable 15-year-old boy online. The order, which is designed to control his internet use, was later reduced to 10 years in duration by the Court of Appeal.

He is currently serving a two year sentence, imposed in May, for breaching that order. He failed to register a smartphone with the police and also admitted using library computers, which are not capable of saving their internet history.

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De Banks, now Swift, returned to the crown court on Tuesday to ask the judge to amend parts of the sexual harm prevention order.

Among his requests was for the order to be changed so he could use an alias – currently prohibited under the terms of his SHPO.

He claimed to have changed his name to Hunter Swift for his own protection, saying he had previously been attacked as a result of publicity surrounding his sexual offending.

“I had a partner who was in Newcastle. I went up to Newcastle, saw him, Googled me. It came up with my case and everything. I nearly got assaulted because of it,” he said.

Thames Valley Police, whose officers are responsible for enforcing the order, initially objected to his request to use false names.

Tracey Tinsley, solicitor for the police force, told Judge Gledhill yesterday that the defendant had previously used aliases – including the names of his victims or their family members.

She said he was previously found to have had ‘over 100’ email accounts in different names. “For that number of aliases to be managed by the public protection officer, that’s not possible, that’s too many.”

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Following discussions, both parties agreed that de Banks would be allowed to use one alias that had been approved by his responsible police officer.

De Banks had also complained that the police refused to allow him to use social media accounts, comparing himself to a ‘wife’ whose coercive husband refused her access to social media.

“I just want to live a normal life, almost, but it feels like I’m being controlled,” said de Banks, whose SHPO is intended to place controls on his internet use and prevent future offending. He said he wanted to access WhatsApp in order to talk to family abroad.

After hearing submissions from the police, the judge varied the order to allow de Banks, who is studying with the Open University, to access a computer at an ‘educational institution’ that was aware of the SHPO.

De Banks also raised with the judge that the risk management software used by the police was incompatible with older or cheaper versions of Android phones that did not run the latest operating system. He stressed the importance of having an internet enabled smartphone for everything from arranging health referrals to contacting solicitors.

He said of the newer Android models: “I can’t afford one of [those] phones.”

But he was told that a mobile phone seized as part of his latest breach of the order, and which was sufficiently up-to-date to run the monitoring software, would be returned to him upon his release from prison next year.

At the end of the hearing, it was pointed out that if he were to commit further offences using the new alias, there was ‘no protection from that name becoming public’.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward