Sarah's Law in Wiltshire

From August all parents in Wiltshire will be able to find out if a known paedophile is in contact with their child.

A scheme known as 'Sarah's Law' has been trialled over the last year.  It's a watered-down version of laws in the US where details of where convicted paedophiles live are actively publicised.

It's been revealed today that 1 in 10 calls to police under this scheme uncovered the hidden criminal past of someone with access to a child.  The largest number of queries came from fathers worried about their ex-partner's new boyfriend, police said.

The scheme will be rolled out to a number of forces, including Wiltshire, in August and then across the rest of the country from March next year.

We've heard that every registered sex offenderswill be contacted to reassure them it will not lead to public vilification.

The scheme started after Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah was killed by convicted paedophile Roy Whiting in July 2000, led a high-profile campaign calling for a British equivalent.

Under the Home Office scheme parents can ask the police about anyone with access to their children and officers will reveal details confidentially if they think it is in the child's interests.

Police may also warn parents if concerns are raised by grandparents or neighbours.

When the scheme was launched last year there were worries that paedophiles would disappear underground en masse and that the revelations would result in vigilante justice but police say that didn't happen. 

A total of 315 applications for information were made to the four forces.  From those details of 21 paedophiles were revealed. Details of 11 individuals with different criminal pasts such as violence were also divulged.  An academic study into the results of the pilots said they strengthened existing controls on sex offenders.

In one case a neighbour giving sweets to youngsters was found to be a paedophile. He was arrested for breaching a court order which barred him from contact with children.

There are currently 32,336 registered sex offenders in England and Wales.

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.''