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Six parents in West Mercia found out someone with access to their child was a sex offender last year

By Dominic Robertson | Crime | Published:

Six parents in West Mercia found out someone with access to their child was a sex offender last year, figures have revealed.

Hundreds of people have contacted police under 'Sarah's Law'.

Child abuse prevention helpline Stop It Now! says the rising number of applications made under the sexual offender disclosure scheme known as 'Sarah's Law' is proof of increasing awareness among parents and carers.

'Sarah's Law', officially known as the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme, was introduced in 2011 following the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne in 2000.

It allows anyone to ask their local police force if someone has a record of committing sex crimes against children.

West Mercia Police received 124 applications under the scheme in 2018-19, according to a Freedom of Information request.

Of these, six (five per cent) resulted in the police disclosing details of a sex offender's history.

In Dyfed Powys, 281 applications were made under the scheme over the same period of time.

Applications under Sarah's Law can be made by anyone, but the police will only inform the person who is able to protect the child.

This means that if a grandparent were to enquire about the new partner of their grandchild's parent, the police would only inform the parent, and not the grandparent, if the partner was found to have a history of sexual offences.

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Disclosures under the scheme have nearly doubled following the introduction of the law, rising from 120 in 2011-12 to 219 last year.

Vulnerable

All 46 police forces in Great Britain were contacted, but only 22 were able to provide comparable figures for 2011-12, while 28 could give figures for 2018-19.

When including the six police forces that only provided figures for last year, there were 296 disclosures.

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The 22 police forces with complete data received 8,958 applications between 2011 and 2019, which suggests the total number of applications could be far higher nationally.

The 1,553 applications received last year was a 78 per cent increase compared to 2011-12.

In West Mercia, applications have increased 143 per cent since 2011-12, when there were 51.

Donald Findlater, director of child abuse helpline Stop It Now!, said it was "reassuring" to see the figures growing nationally.

He said: "I think the rise is demonstrating a level of interest in safeguarding children and seeking information greater than we have had historically.

"I would like to see this trend continue because it is demonstrating awareness and vigilance.

"One in 10 children experience sexual abuse and one of the biggest problems is people are blind to the reality of it and think, 'it won't happen around here'.

"The fact that people are making the applications demonstrates to me that people are aware that the children they love and care about may be vulnerable to abuse."

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