Page last updated at 12:48 GMT, Sunday, 3 May 2009 13:48 UK

Pilot plan on sex offender alerts

Campaigners for information on sex offenders
The murder of Mark Cummings led to demands for more information

Parents will be able to ask police if someone close to their family is a sex offender, under a planned pilot scheme.

Under the measures, police will be able to tell families if someone with access to a child has convictions for sex offences.

The pilot scheme will get under way in September and run until next May in a police force area yet to be identified.

The justice secretary said it could provide further protection against those who seek to abuse children.

Kenny MacAskill said that "blanket disclosure" could force offenders underground and put children at greater risk.

But he added: "While we must all rightly be alert to 'stranger danger', most sexual offences against children are in fact committed by individuals known to the child's family, adults who abuse a position of trust with that child."

New partner

The scheme will allow a mother to ask whether a new partner has a record of child sex offences. If police fear a risk, they can tell her.

The issue came into focus after the murder of eight-year-old Mark Cummings in 2004 by convicted sex offender Stuart Leggate who lived in the same tower block.

None of the residents in the block in Royston, Glasgow were told when Leggate moved in.

The scheme is similar to a project already under way in England.

It was welcomed by Tory leader Annabel Goldie.

"We must consider all reasonable steps to protect our children from the evil of predatory sex offenders," she said.

"I am pleased that the Scottish Government has now responded and will introduce a trial later this year."

Labour MSP Richard Baker said: "The safety of families must come first so we welcome progress on this matter.

"The pilot scheme will be very important, and we will look at the results with interest to see how this right to know will work in practice."

More than 3,000 registered sex offenders are living in Scotland, according to figures released last year, although most complied with the notification requirements of the sex offenders register.

There were 183 breaches of the notification requirements, according to government figures.

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