New scheme to protect children launched in Herts

21 January 2011, 13:50 | Updated: 21 January 2011, 14:00

A scheme that allows parents to find out if a person who has regular with their children is a sex offender is now being rolled out across Hertfordshire.

The Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme is a national initiative which provides confidential information to concerned parents, carers or guardians. It's already in force in Bedfordshire, Buckimghamshire and Northamptonshire.

It will be managed through the force’s Community Safety Unit and has been developed to inform ‘relevant’ concerned people about child safeguarding issues.

During a media briefing at police headquarters in Welwyn Garden City earlier this morning it was explained that the initiative is not to be confused with ‘Sarah’s Law’ or a scheme to ‘out’ perverts in our community, but aims to provide an additional safety net through closer liaison between the public and police.

Under the scheme members of the public can either report their concerns either by calling the Constabulary on the non-emergency number or directly by visiting a police station. Staff across the force have undergone training and are ready to assist and guide anyone who comes forward to report their suspicions.

Detective Chief Inspector Julie Wheatley, who works within the County Community Safety Unit and is the force lead for Offender management, said: “Hertfordshire has a positive record in responding to child abuse issues and the scheme aims to enhance existing arrangements. Essentially if anyone wishes to make a report in relation to a child, whether they have a concern or not, they can make contact with us under the scheme and we will respond.

She added: “This is not a scheme for snoopers but a positive response to keeping children safe. Further details of the scheme can also be found on the police internet site which we hope will encourage people to make contact of they have any worries.”

Applicants have to sign a confidentiality agreement and officers have 45 days in which to make a response. However initial checks are made within 24 hours to assess if there is any immediate risk. If an issue emerges action will be taken straight away. Applicants will also be seen face to face by an officer and given information about the scheme. .

Julie added: “We will be grateful for any contact we have from the public in relation to the scheme but will only give final advice about an individual to those directly responsible for the safety of a particular child if that is not the applicant then understandably they won’t be briefed about the details if it is not relevant to them. The process of disclosure will always be explained the applicants and the need for discretion will be reinforced through the signing of the confidentiality agreement.”