PARENTS in parts of Cambridgeshire can now check if the people who have access to their children have ever been convicted of sex offences. The new pilot project will allow parents to find out about any previous sex convictions, charges, allegations and fo
PARENTS in parts of Cambridgeshire can now check if the people who have access to their children have ever been convicted of sex offences.
The new pilot project will allow parents to find out about any previous sex convictions, charges, allegations and formal warnings. The checks, which will be carried out by Cambridgeshire police, will relate not just to offences against children but also to drug offences and any others - such as violence - that they consider will put children at risk.
Cambridgeshire is one of four police forces where the pilot is being carried out. However, to begin with the Cambridgeshire scheme will be restricted to Peterborough.
A spokesman for Cambridgeshire police said Peterborough was chosen as the police area matched that of the city council and the probation service. It may have also stretched resources too far to have covered the entire county, the police added.
The project began on Monday (September 15) and will last for a year.
Parents or guardians concerned about a person who has direct contact with children will be able to telephone police, call into a station, or even asking an officer in the street, to carry out checks.
The person making the enquiry will then be visited by an officer to ensure that they have the right to make the application.
Under the Sex Offender Pilot Disclosure Scheme an extended investigation will be made into the person in question, going beyond the usual Criminal Records Bureau check. Enquiries will be made across police forces and the information disclosed to the person who asked for it.
However, Detective Superintendant John Raine stressed that the checks did not mean parents could assume that a new acquaintance was "safe". All they could say was whether anything was on record.
He also emphasised that children in areas outside the project were no less protected than they are now. If anyone had worries about children anywhere, the police and other authorities would act immediately to protect them.
DS Raine added that people who received information through the scheme would be asked to keep it confidential. Problems with people taking the law into their own hands were not expected.
"This is not Sarah's Law and it is not Megan's Law. We will not be putting people's details on the internet. We will disclose the information only to the relevant person, to parents or guardians.
"Everyone who makes an application will be visited by the police to make sure they have the right to make the application. We will not be passing on the information to schools or newspapers."
He added that the pilot would be evaluated by the Home Office.
INFORMATION: Megan's Law operates in America and allows information about the whereabouts of sex offenders to be made public. A campaign to introduce a similar law in the UK was launched following the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne. She was killed by a convicted sex offender in 2000.