Parents win right to identify sex offenders

Posted On 28 Sep 2010 at 11:00 am

Sussex Police is to allow people across Brighton and Hove to ask whether partners and neighbours are registered sex offenders from today.

The scheme is a diluted version of what is known in America as Megan’s Law.

Campaigners in Britain have called for the same rights and called it Sarah’s Law after schoolgirl Sarah Payne.

Sarah, 8, was murdered in Sussex by a convicted paedophile, Roy Whiting, ten years ago.

Sara Payne, Sarah’s mother, said: “We welcome Sussex on board and hope they find this a welcome tool in the child protection box.

“We look forward to Sarah’s Law being national and then it won’t matter where you live, you will be able to have access to the scheme.”

The scheme has already been tested by four police forces after a long campaign by Sara Payne and her supporters.

It is expected to be operated nationally from next spring.

Sussex Police said that the scheme would enable enables parents, carers and guardians – or other interested parties – to apply for disclosure about someone who has contact with a child.

Assistant Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said: “Sussex Police is pleased to be part of the next stage of the implementation of the child sex offender disclosure scheme.

“This will further enhance and support the child safeguarding and public protection procedures currently in place within the county.

“Training has already been undertaken by all police officers and staff who will be involved in the process and will take all steps to ensure that any information disclosed will only be used to protect those identified children and not inappropriately used.

“As a force we work extremely hard to safeguard children within our communities.

“If anyone has a concern about an individual then please come forward and talk to us.”

To apply for disclosure, members of the public must either go to one of the police stations in Brighton and Hove, call 0845 6070999 or apply online via www.sussex.police.uk.

Sussex Police said: “All applications will be verified to ensure they comply with the criteria.

“Disclosure cannot be guaranteed in all cases.

“The safeguarding of children will be the key determining factor.

“Disclosure will usually be made to those people who are in the best position to protect a child from harm such as parents, carers or guardians.”

Sussex Police has issued a list of frequently asked questions about the scheme.

Who deals with my request?

Your request will be managed by trained officers who work in the force’s Specialist Investigations Branch. They will contact you once your request has been recorded by the Sussex Police Contact Centre. We will require information about you, the child you believe may be at risk and the person you are concerned about.

Will the subject know they are being checked out, and who asked for it?

No, confidentiality will be maintained unless a disclosure takes place. If there is a disclosure, the subject may be informed that the applicant is to receive information about them. Risk assessments will take place for each disclosure.

If disclosure takes place, can applicants warn family and friends about the sexual or violent offender?

Information about disclosure must be treated as confidential. It is only being given so that steps can be taken to protect children. Applicants must not share this information with anyone else unless they have spoken to the police, or the person who gave them the information, and the police have agreed that it can be shared. In considering disclosure, all relevant persons will be informed.

How are registered sexual offenders usually managed?

The police have a statutory responsibility to manage registered sex offenders (RSOs). All RSOs are subject to Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA). MAPPA aims to reduce the risk posed by offenders to the community.

Does disclosure already take place?

Yes it does. Under MAPPA or Safeguarding Children Arrangements, information is disclosed to an individual or group where it is felt necessary or proportionate to protect children from abuse.

What will be done to stop offenders becoming victims of vigilantism?

The police and other agencies are in regular contact with offenders and the disclosure process will be carefully managed. If anyone feels they are likely to become a victim of vigilantism or have been targeted, they should contact the police. In all cases of disclosure, the risks to the offender and the community impact will be considered. However, the protection of children will be the key determining factor.

What happens if someone tries to make a false application?

Making a false declaration in an attempt to procure the disclosure of personal data to which someone does not have a lawful right of access is an offence under the Data Protection Act 1998. This offence is more commonly referred to as “blagging” and is punishable by an unlimited fine at Crown Court. Therefore, anyone providing false information in registering their interest or misusing any information disclosed – for example, by engaging in vigilantism on their own behalf, or on behalf of others – or the harassment of sex offenders, would be subject to police intervention and potential prosecution for any offences identified.

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