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Keeping children safe – your right to ask
Information about people who pose a risk to children can be given to parents and guardians in certain police service areas under the Government’s Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme (also known as Sarah's Law).
The Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme 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. Consideration will also be given to disclosing information about a person who poses a risk to a vulnerable adult(s).
The Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme originates from the Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Pilot which was introduced by the Home Office in September 2008. A pilot was conducted in four police areas and the scheme has now been rolled out across the country.
Under the scheme, a parent, guardian or third party can make an application to find out if there is information which 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 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.
If you have concerns
Call our Helpline
If you are concerned about someone you know, you can call our confidential freephone Helpline on 0808 1000 900 to talk through your concerns in confidence with trained operators.
Implement a family safety plan
Do not wait for ‘proof’ of child sexual abuse. Visit our family safety plan pages for information and advice on how the things to think about.
If you are concerned about the sexualized behaviours in a parent, cousin, sibling, friend, or neighbour, you should consider contacting the police or children's services in your area, they can take action if appropriate. If you choose not to do that, care enough to talk to the person whose behaviour is worrying you. At any point you can call the Stop it Now! Helpline on 0808 1000 900 for advice and support.
Make sure everyone knows that it’s OK to talk with you about what may have already happened – that you love them and will help them.
Questions and Answers
How does the Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme work?
Any member of the public can approach participating forces to apply under the Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme, for information regarding a specific person who has contact with a child(ren). The police will process the application, but disclosure is not guaranteed. Even if there are no firm grounds for suspicion, the applicant can trigger an investigation to find out if the subject (the person they are asking about) has a known history that means they might be of risk to children.
Third parties with concerns (e.g. grandparents or neighbours) about an individual who has contact with children are also invited to use the scheme. However, where appropriate, disclosure will only be given to parents and guardians or those best placed to protect a child.
How do people apply for information?
They should visit any police station in the participating area or call their local police non-emergency number. More information can be found on the relevant police force’s website.
Does disclosure already take place?
Yes it does. Under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) or under the Safeguarding Children Arrangements, information is disclosed to an individual or group where it is felt necessary or proportionate to protect children from abuse.
MAPPA is the process through which the police, probation and prison services work together with other agencies to manage the risks posed by sex offenders, and violent offenders living in the community in order to protect the public.
The Safeguarding Children Arrangements involve a number of agencies working together to promote children’s welfare and help protect children from abuse. Disclosure may also take place under the Safeguarding Children Arrangements, where Children’s Services may disclose information held by the authorities in a managed way; where it is felt necessary to protect children under Section 47 of The Children Act.
This scheme enables parents, guardians and third parties to find out about possible sexual offenders or violent offenders who may be in contact with their children or a child they know.
How are registered sexual offenders usually managed?
The police have a statutory responsibility to manage registered sex offenders. All registered sex offenders are subject to MAPPA procedures. MAPPA aims to reduce the risk posed by offenders to the community.
Will the subject know they are being checked out, and who asked for it?
No, confidentiality will be maintained unless a disclosure takes place. If a disclosure does take place the subject may be informed that the applicant is to receive a disclosure about them. Risk assessments will take place for each disclosure.
If disclosure takes place, can applicants warn family and friends about the sexual or violent offender?
Information about disclosure must be treated as confidential. It is only being given so that steps can be taken to protect children. Applicants must not share this information with anyone else unless they have spoken to the police, or the person who gave them the information, and the police have agreed that it can be shared. In considering disclosure, all relevant persons will be informed.
What will be done to stop offenders becoming victims of vigilantism?
The police and other agencies are in regular contact with offenders and the disclosure process will be carefully managed. If anyone feels they are likely to become a victim of vigilantism or have been targeted, they should contact the police. In all cases of disclosure, the risks to the offender and the community impact will be considered, however the protection of children will be the key determining factor.
What happens if someone tries to make a false application?
Making a false declaration in an attempt to procure the disclosure of personal data to which someone does not have a lawful right of access is an offence under the Data Protection Act 1998. This offence is more commonly referred to as 'blagging' and is punishable by an unlimited fine at Crown Court. Therefore, anyone providing false information in registering their interest or misusing any information disclosed, for example, by engaging in vigilantism on their own behalf, or on behalf of others, or the harassment of sex offenders, would be subject to police intervention and potential prosecution for any offences identified.
For more information click here.
What to do if a child tells about abuse?
If you are concerned about a child who has disclosed information to you follow visit our 'what to do if a child tells about abuse' pages.