Sarah’s Law used to check partners’ backgrounds by mums in Leicestershire

Mothers are using a law introduced to protect children from paedophiles to check their partners’ backgrounds.

The child-sex offenders disclosure scheme was inspired by the murder, in 2000, of Sarah Payne by paedophile Roy Whiting – and became known as Sarah’s Law. It was introduced in Leicestershire a year ago this week.

​The child-sex offenders disclosure scheme was inspired by the murder, in 2000, of Sarah Payne by paedophile Roy Whiting
.It allows parents, guardians or other full-time carers to approach police if they have concerns about someone who has close and unsupervised contact with their children.

Police said yesterday they had received 31 applications for information since the scheme was launched.

In nine cases, officers discovered the subject of the application had a history of sexual offences against children or crimes such as child cruelty or neglect and domestic violence.

Most of the applications were from women who had concerns about new and former partners. Others were made by other close family members, such as grandparents, who wanted to find out about men who had access to their grandchildren.

Only a small number used the law to check on the backgrounds of people such as private tutors or youth workers.

Detective Inspector Mark Cuddihy said giving the families “factual and correct” information had enabled them to take steps to protect their children.

He said: “You can only speculate what might have happened if these applications had not been made.

“We know that certain – but not all – sex offenders will try to infiltrate a family.

“We have disclosed convictions of a sexual or violent nature, including child cruelty and neglect.

“The people who asked for information were given facts, not rumours off the streets.”

Detectives yesterday announced that they would be using Facebook to promote the scheme.

Det Insp Cuddihy said: “People have used the scheme very responsibly and we have not had any applications which we would count as malicious.

“Facebook is a good place to start getting the message out.”

A man whose granddaughter was indecently assaulted by a paedophile welcomed the scheme.

He said: “If this new law had been available to us back then, we would have been able to expose his lies and possibly have prevented all this pain.”

Jon Brown, of the NSPCC, said: “It is important to remember not all child-sex offenders are known to police.

“We urge people to contact the NSPCC if they are worried about someone’s behaviour towards a child and are unsure whether to contact the police.”

People who wish to apply for information under the scheme can obtain an application form online or at a police station.

They must provide identification and state their reasons for asking for disclosure. No fee will be charged.

Information is released to applicants on the strict understanding they do not share it with anyone else.

Disclosing the information could be a breach of the Data Protection Act, which can result in a fine of up to £5,000.

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