September 17, 2008

U.K. Takes Cue from U.S. Sex Offender Law

Four communities in England will start running background checks on possible sex offenders, similar to “Megan’s Law” in the U.S.

The BBC reports that Warwickshire, Cambridgeshire, Cleveland and Hampshire will initiate one-year pilot programs allowing parents, guardians and caretakers to learn from police about any histories of abuse for people who have access to their children.

The program was inspired by the murder of Sarah Payne, an eight- year-old who was kidnapped and killed by a convicted sex offender in 2000.

Under the program, police must provide a background check between 24 hours and 10 days, depending on the urgency of the request, and will refer cases to other law enforcement agencies if prior convictions are discovered.

If a convicted offender is found to be no longer a risk, authorities have the option to not disclose prior abuses.

Only people directly responsible for a child may access such information and they are prohibited from spreading it around.

But child protection experts wonder the new law would lead to vigilantism and drive offenders underground.

“Megan’s Law” requires publication of an offender’s whereabouts in a database.

Sara Payne, the mother of Sarah Payne, told the BBC the pilots are only a “first step” in protecting children.

–T.J. Johnston/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Sex offender alerts plan launched”
BBC News, September 15, 2008

“Will sex offender pilots work?”
BBC News, September 14, 2008

“Parents get new sex crime checks”
BBC News, February 17, 2008

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