Children in all 43 police force areas in England and Wales are better protected thanks to the final rollout of the child sex offender disclosure scheme, the Home Secretary announced today.
Under the scheme anyone can ask the police to check whether people who have contact with children pose a risk. If the individual has convictions for sexual offences against children or poses a risk of causing harm then the police can chose to disclose this information to the parent, carer or guardian.
A phased introduction began in August 2010 following a successful 12 month pilot in four police force areas. By 4 April 2011, all 43 police forces will be running the scheme.
Proctected from harm
Home Secretary Theresa May said: ‘Having this scheme in operation across all police forces in England and Wales means more children have a greater chance of being protected from potential harm.
‘The UK already has one of the strictest systems for managing known sex offenders in the world, but this scheme will further enhance our ability to safeguard children in this country and also assists the police in managing offenders living in the wider community.’
The Association of Chief Police Officers lead on managing sexual and violent offenders chief constable Paul West said: ‘A fundamental role of policing is to protect people from harm. Since the child sex offender disclosure scheme was introduced last year we have seen many positive outcomes as far as safeguarding children is concerned.
‘As well as empowering parents, carers or guardians to take active steps to protect their children from harm, the cases in those forces already using the scheme have also seen concerns being raised by extended family members and neighbours. Their actions have undoubtedly led to children being protected from potential harm.
‘The rollout of this scheme to the remaining 19 forces in England and Wales will without doubt result in children being protected from potential abuse as well as ensure greater public confidence in the police and other responsible authorities as part of their role in monitoring sex offenders.’
As part of the drive to protect children from harm a website www.parentsprotect.co.uk was set up by campaign groups Stop it Now! UK and Ireland and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation to raise awareness of the issue of child sexual abuse, answer questions and give parents and carers the information they need to help safeguard their children.
Donald Findlater statement
Donald Findlater, Director of Research and Development at the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, said: ‘It’s vital that as many tools as possible are available to parents and carers to help them protect their children from sexual abuse and the Disclosure Scheme is one such tool. While we want people to go to the police when they have a concern - we also want all adults to do what they can to ensure children remain safe at all times.
‘The police only know about known offenders, and if you have concerns about someone who the police do not know, this does not mean they are automatically ‘safe’. We should all remain vigilant to the warning signs so we can take action if necessary.
‘Sex offenders are mostly not the monsters commonly portrayed in the media - they are people we know, often people we care for. Recognising that someone close to us could pose risk to children is not easy to think about. But, if we know what to look out for and where to go for help and advice we are much better placed to protect children from harm.’
Notes to editors
1. Following a successful 12 month pilot in four police force areas the scheme was rolled out nationally on a phased basis to a further 20 forces with the remaining forces completing the roll out by 4 April 2011:
Four forces took part in a 12 month pilot ending in September 2009:
Additional forces who implemented the scheme by the end of 2010:
- West Midlands
- Thames Valley
- West Mercia
- North Yorkshire
The remaining forces to ‘go live’ by 4 April 2011:
- Avon & Somerset
- City of London
- Devon & Cornwall
- Dyfed Powys
- North Wales
- South Wales
- South Yorkshire
- West Yorkshire
2. A research report into the original pilot can be found at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs10/horr32c.pdf
3. The website www.parentsprotect.co.uk includes a 30-minute learning programme. The video details some of the key issues around child sexual abuse, including: what sexual abuse is, who abuses children, why people abuse children, offending behaviour, signs to look out for in children and adults, how to put in place a family safety plan to help protect children and where to go for help and advice.
4. The Lucy Failthfull Foundation has provided training to all police forces so they can deliver child sexual abuse awareness seminars directly to their communities. The seminars provide factual information, such as who abuses children, how and why, and help people to recognise the signs to look out for.
5. More information about the disclosure scheme including leaflets and booklets being used by the police forces can be found at: www.direct.gov.uk/keepingchildrensafe
6. For more information contact the Home Office press office on 020 7035 3535 or call individual police force press offices for more information about how the scheme is operating in local areas.
Child Sex Offender disclosure scheme
England and Wales operate Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) to manage sexual and violent offenders and disclosure can be a tool in that management process.
The police already disclose information about registered sexual offenders (RSO) and violent offenders in a controlled way and to a variety of people including head teachers, leisure centre managers, employers and landlords, as well as parents.
The difference in the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme is that there is now a more formal mechanism for a person to make an application for information about a particular individual who has contact with a child or children, therefore alerting the authorities to an offender who may be having contact with a child which they may not previously have been aware of.
This encourages individuals to take responsibility for safety of their children and provides a way of getting more information on RSOs who are in contact with children.
Case study one
A father made an application to his local police force as he had concerns about his ex-wife’s new partner, who had access to his children. After checks were carried out the new partner was found to have been previously arrested for child sexual offences and was in breach of bail. A disclosure was made to the ex-wife/mother and the individual was arrested and removed from the household. Following this it was established that the ex-wife/mother was still in contact with the new partner and the children were then removed from her care.
Case study two
A concerned parent made a request for a disclosure after hearing rumours about an individual who had contact with their child through a trusted third party who regularly looked after the child. Checks revealed that the individual had been convicted of child sexual offences and a disclosure was made to the parent.
Case study three
A parent had heard rumours that someone who regularly looked after her children was in a relationship with a male who had been convicted of sex with a minor. Full details of the individual were not known so a visit was made to the address. The male was at the address when officers attended and provided their full details and disclosed that they had been previously investigated for sexual assault of a female relative under 13 years of age. Disclosure was subsequently given to the parent in order that they could protect their children.
Case study four
A parent made an application after she had some concerns about her partner who was in prison at the time. Checks revealed that the partner was subject to a previous sexual conviction, a Sexual Offences Prevention Order and that they had been arrested further on suspicion of sexual assaults. A disclosure was made to the parent.
Case study five
An application and checks revealed that an individual had breached a Sex Offender Prevention Order (SOPO). The individual was then sentenced to 26 weeks imprisonment for contact with a child under 16.