Sarah’s Law set for UK roll-out

Sarah’s Law, which allows parents to check if someone has a history of child sex offences, will be rolled out nationally this weekend.

The Home Office scheme gives a parent the right to check with police if anyone with regular unsupervised access to their children has a criminal conviction for child sex offences.

The programme follows the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne by convicted sex offender Roy Whiting 10 years ago.

The youngster’s mother, Sara, was crowned the Government’s Victims’ Champion after her ceaseless attempts to bring in the law, based on the so-called Megan’s Law in the US which allows the publication of names, addresses and pictures of paedophiles in some states.

Speaking when plans for the roll-out in England and Wales were first announced earlier this year, Michele Elliott, founder of children’s charity Kidscape, said it was important for parents to be able to get access to the information and downplayed fears that rolling out the scheme could lead to vigilante attacks.

The move could help create a more rational view about the number of paedophiles in society, she said. However, some charities have previously warned that the scheme could backfire by driving paedophiles underground.

The introduction of the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme follows a trial in Cambridgeshire, Cleveland, Hampshire and Warwickshire which started in September 2008.

As of Sunday, the scheme will be rolled out to eight other force areas – West Mercia, Bedfordshire, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Thames Valley, West Midlands, Essex and Suffolk.

A further expansion is planned for the autumn, with Northamptonshire, Staffordshire, Sussex, Leicestershire, Wiltshire, Cheshire, Durham, Northumbria, Dorset, Lincolnshire, Surrey and Gloucestershire joining the scheme.

It will be rolled out to other forces by spring next year. A similar roll-out of a pilot scheme was also proposed for Scotland earlier this year.

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