General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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No Sarah's law for NI



Legislation allowing parents to check up on paedophiles in their area will not be introduced across Northern Ireland, despite apparent successful pilot schemes in England and Wales.

Sarah's Law was brought about as the result of a long-running campaign by the mother of murdered eight-year-old Sarah Payne. She was abducted and killed by registered sex offender Roy Whiting ten years ago.

The scheme - which has been running in four police forces since 2008, with a further twenty to follow by October - allows parents the right to know if anyone with regular unsupervised access to their children has convictions for sex offences.

A similar scheme is set to be rolled out across Scotland within weeks.

But in Northern Ireland, child protection policies are to be strengthened by the Safeguarding Board Bill which is due to become legislation in the Autumn.

Some local MPs feel that does not go far enough and are campaigning for Sarah's Law to come into effect across the region.

"I think if this legislation (Sarah's Law) is good enough for parents in England and Wales, it's good enough for parents here in Northern Ireland," said DUP North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jnr.

"I think parents do have a right to know - I think parents are the best guardians of children, not organisations.

"And I think that the more knowledge we have, the more safe our children can be."

But children's charity, the NSPCC, fears the controversial Sarah's Law may force paedophiles underground or encourage vigilantes to take the law into their own hands.

"For some time, we've had good systems operating between police and social services to check people out," said the organisation's Colin Reid.

"It's important to say, we have a 98% compliance rate with registered sex offenders and we certainly wouldn't want to do anything to drive that down."

According to the NSPCC, police and social services in Northern Ireland already operate a policy of "controlled disclosure" - where parents or communities will be told when necessary, on a case-by-case basis, about any concerns regarding an adult who poses a risk.

Mr Reid added: "We will certainly support anything which protects children and brings confidence to the public but, at the moment, I think what we're saying is let's see what happens in England."

The Home Office has claimed that more than 60 children have been safeguarded in England and Wales since the pilot schemes began.

Almost 600 inquiries have been made to the four police forces involved, leading to 21 disclosures about registered child sex offenders.


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