28 February 2011 saw the launch of the Child Sex Offender Disclosure scheme within Avon and Somerset.
The scheme, which is also known as Sarah's Law, enables parents, guardians and third parties to enquire whether a person who has access to a child is a registered sex offender, or poses a risk to that child.
The scheme was launched by the Home Office in September 2008 as a pilot amongst four police forces in the country over a 12 month period (September 2008-September 2009). Following its success it was decided that the initiative would be rolled out nationally.
What is the purpose of the scheme?
The scheme is about safeguarding and protecting children from harm. It allows parents, guardians or any third party to make an application to find out if there is information they need to know about in order to protect a child(ren) in their care. If there is a need to pass information to someone in order to allow them to better protect a child, then the police will disclose to whoever is in a position to use, or need, that information.
Although each case will be considered separately, (in consultation with partner agencies) disclosure will only be made to those people who are in a position to best protect or safeguard a child.
The scheme in many respects is not new, it simply builds on existing processes to proactively manage sexual and violent offenders by the constabulary's Public Protection Units under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA). Although disclosure already takes place when children are deemed to be at risk, the scheme enables parents, guardians and third parties to apply directly for information themselves.
Anyone living in Avon and Somerset can make an application for disclosure about someone who has contact with a child. The person they are enquiring about must also live in the Avon and Somerset area.