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Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2006, 18:38 GMT
'Paedophile checks' for mothers
Sarah Payne, murdered by a known paedophile.
Campaigners want a UK version of Megan's Law, called Sarah's Law
Single mothers could be allowed to check up on new partners to see if they are sex offenders, under proposals being considered by the Home Office.

A review is looking at the level of information people in England and Wales have about offenders in their area.

Under the plan, checks would be made by police and would have to be supported by reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Some paedophiles befriend single mothers as a way of gaining access to their children.

At present police and other agencies whose suspicions are aroused warn women in some cases that their children could be at risk from a partner using data from the sex offenders register or provided by Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements.

Self-employed

The latest idea was announced as the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) centre set up a new website publishing pictures and details about missing child sex offenders.
The Criminal Records Bureau has closed down many of the avenues these men have to get access to children... so we're left now with single parents and with self-employment
Child protection expert Ray Wyre

Another proposal could give people in the community the right to know whether child sex offenders are in their area - but would not provide specific details about where they were living.

Such a measure would fall short of campaigners' demands for a version of Megan's Law in the US, which provides information on paedophiles living in local areas.

A Home Office spokesman said the review was still ongoing.

BBC home affairs correspondent Rory MacLean said it was a policy idea that would go out to consultation in the new year.

Ray Wyre, who has many years experience working with sex offenders, said police checks when a woman had suspicions would help to limit a common route to children.

"The Criminal Records Bureau has closed down many of the avenues these men have to get access to children," he told BBC Radio Five Live.

"They can't go and join a church and start working on the Sunday school, they can't go to work in a youth club, they can't go to sports clubs in the way they used to.

"So we're left now with single parents and with self-employment."

He believes there should be checks on self-employed tutors as well.

"I'd like to see the first step is that anyone who's advertising in a post office or library for teaching or music teaching or maths teaching, that adults have the right to check out that person before they send the child to them," he said.

Vigilante fears

High profile cases have led the government to consider exactly how much information should be disclosed to the public about sex offenders living in the community.

They include the case of eight-year-old Sarah Payne, who was murdered by a known paedophile in West Sussex in 2000.

Home Secretary John Reid has said "information should no longer remain the exclusive preserve of officialdom".

During a visit to the US in June, Home Office minister Gerry Sutcliffe met the parents of Megan Kanka, the seven-year-old whose murder by a neighbour and convicted sex offender led to Megan's Law.

UK campaigners have long called for a similar law to be brought in - sometimes called Sarah's Law after Sarah Payne.

But there have been concerns that it could encourage vigilante attacks or drive offenders underground.

It is also thought that releasing paedophiles' information under such a policy could divert attention from other dangerous people, as some children are more at risk from people they know than from strangers.




SEE ALSO
No 10 admits Megan's Law problems
19 Jun 06 |  UK Politics
Doubts over British Megan's Law
23 Jul 06 |  UK Politics
Why is Reid looking at new law?
20 Jun 06 |  UK Politics

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