Probe reveals Sarah’s Law being forgotten

Child safety campaigners fear parents are already “forgetting” about Sarah’s Law, after an investigation found that across the borough it’s being used less and less.

The law is named after tragic eight-year-old Sarah Payne, who was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting.

It enables parents, carers and guardians to check if someone has a criminal record for child sex offences.

It was introduced in 2010, amid a wave of publicity. But a probe has revealed that since then, applications have steadily fallen every year - so much so that last year just two people in the borough used it.

Donald Findlater, from child protection charity Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which runs projects across the country to try and stop sexual abuse said government cuts had affected advertising of the scheme and applications from the public.

Our figures, obtained via a Freedom of Information request to North Yorkshire Police, show since 2010 the number of requests, made by suspicious parents from Whitby, Scarborough or Filey made through Sarah’s Law have fallen by almost 75 per cent.

One in 10 requests have revealed the person at the centre of the probe had a criminal record for sexual offences against children.

Nationally, over 700 paedophiles were identified since the legislation - known officially as The Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme - was implemented.

North Yorkshire Police say the scheme is a “key service” for parents, carers and guardians to help them protect their children from individuals who pose a serious risk.

“Child protection is an absolute priority for the police and our partner agencies,” said a force spokesperson.

“Safety measures such as the disclosure scheme should be used freely and without hesitation.

“It is essential they have the ability and confidence to formally raise concerns, as well as having some informed control over who they allow close to their children.

“If parents, carers or guardians have any doubts about someone, please contact North Yorkshire Police and use the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme.”

The scheme was launched following campaigning from Sarah’s mother, Sara Payne.

Her campaigning started after murderer Whiting’s conviction, after it emerged he was already a convicted sex offender.

But with the significant decline in requests through the act, Mr Findlater feels “there needs to be more discussion” about the scheme.

“The risk to children is no less now than when the scheme was introduced. People need to know about it and apply.”

North Yorkshire Police have a dedicated scheme phone line - 01609 768003 - which is staffed by a trained control room operator in the Force Control Room.

More information about the scheme is available on the force’s website. Visit www.northyorkshire.police.uk/csod