'Sarah's Law' to be extended in Hampshire

Hampshire Police will continue to allow parents access to information after a child sex offender disclosure pilot scheme proved a success.

Hampshire Police will form part of a pioneering scheme that will deliver improved protection for children by giving members of the public a formal mechanism to make enquires about people who are in contact with children it was announced by Home Secretary Alan Johnson today.

The Child Sex Offender Disclosure scheme has already had success after more than 60 children were protected from potential abuse during a 12 month pilot in Cleveland, Hampshire, Warwickshire and Cambridgeshire.

The scheme will now roll out to 18 more police force areas from August giving added reassurance to parents worried about those in contact with their children. This is in addition to the four existing pilot areas, including Hampshire Police, which will continue with the scheme. The government aims to roll out to all forces by the end of March 2011.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said:

“I am determined to do all I can to protect children and families from sex offenders .The UK already has one of the most robust systems in the world for the management of sex offenders, the new scheme will build on this ensuring more children are kept safe.

We’ve already seen that children are better protected and sex offenders more effectively managed because of this scheme, which is why it is rolling out nationwide.”

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Ashthorpe, Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Pilot lead for Hampshire Constabulary, said:

“The pilot has proved very successful in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and has given parents and guardians the facility to come forward and find out information that can ultimately help protect a child.

“We welcome the national roll out of the scheme by the Home Office and fully support this.

“We encourage anyone who has concerns about the safety of a young person to come and speak to us. The scheme currently operating in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight will continue to provide information about risk to children to those who need to know."

Under the terms of the scheme a parent, carer or guardian, or another interested party, can request that an individual who has access to a child is checked to see whether they have a record of committing child sexual offences.

If an individual is found to have convictions for sexual offences against children, or poses a risk of causing serious harm to the child or children concerned, then this information may be disclosed by the relevant Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangement (MAPPA) to the person best placed to protect the child – usually the parent, carer or guardian.

Sara Payne,Victims’ Champion said:

“I am delighted that the years of campaigning and hard work by so many friends and colleagues have provided those who care for children with the right to check that adults who have access to them do not pose a danger.

“The evaluation has shown the huge benefits of increased but controlled access to information. The input of the police, children’s charities and academics to the pilots has ensured consensus has been reached and that we are working together to keep children safe.”

The new national scheme builds on the UK’s existing system for actively managing sex offenders. This includes:

· the success of the Child Exploitation and On-Line Protection centre (CEOP) which has disrupted 205 high risk sex offender networks, arrested 821 suspected offenders and safeguarded 515 children;

· the Criminal Records Bureau which has stopped around 130,000 inappropriate people working with children and vulnerable adults; and

· MAPPA, which brings together probation, police and prisons to ensure serious sex offenders have rigorous risk assessments, strict conditions and are subject to a management plan that is kept under constant review.

The four pilot police forces saw a total of 585 enquiries and 315 applications primarily from parents, carers and guardians. In total 21 disclosures were made about registered child sex offenders, a further 11 general disclosures were made, for example in cases relating to protection issues linked to violent offending. Another 43 additional cases led to a range of other child safeguarding actions such as referrals to children’s social care services.

As part of the new scheme the government will be working with CEOP to pilot a new on-line reporting process in addition to other methods by which members of the public can register their concerns.

CEOP’s role in protecting vulnerable children will be further expanded when it takes over as lead agency for missing children.

The government has already further strengthened powers to protect children being exploited for sex. Tough new closure orders, targeting premises, including those associated with child prostitution or child pornography, come into effect on 1 April.

This year the government also intends to consult police forces on how they can provide the Home Office with data on the age of victims of crime to give the criminal justice system a clearer picture of how children are affected by crime.

In addition the Association of Chief Police Officers is preparing a child protection delivery plan which builds on the progress already made in providing specialist training for police investigations concerning child abuse and safeguarding children. The production of the delivery plan responds directly to the commitment given by the government in its response to Lord Laming’s review of child protection arrangements.

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