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15 SEP 2008

Child Sex Offender Disclosure pilots launched

The Home Office has launched three new Child Sex Offender Disclosure pilots that will allow parents in some areas to ask police if anyone with access to their child has been convicted of child sex offences or domestic violence.

The aim of the pilot is to test the effectiveness of giving parents, carers and guardians a more formal mechanism for requesting information about people who are involved in their family life, specifically if they are concerned that a person is a registered sex offender. The authorities will consider the request and decide whether it is appropriate in all the circumstances for disclosure to be made.

"You have to be a parent, carer or a guardian and you would go to the police or the authorities and say you have concern about somebody who had unsupervised direct access to your children," Home Office minister Vernon Coaker told BBC radio.

"It may well be a babysitter, it may be a new boyfriend, it may be somebody who lives next door but it has to be somebody who has that unsupervised access.

"The whole point of this is to pilot these processes, to test them to see whether they make a difference to child protection," Mr Coaker said.

However charities have expressed concern that the measures could lead to vigilante attacks, forcing paedophiles underground.

Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo's, said: "Disclosing the whereabouts of sex offenders will not necessarily make children any safer. We still remain concerned that this is not the best way to protect children.

"Children's safety must come first, and disclosure will only plunge children into greater danger. I am gravely concerned that the effect of greater disclosure will prompt more sex offenders to flee police and probation supervision, at which point they become very dangerous indeed."

The pilots will be run by Warwickshire, Cambridgeshire, Cleveland and Hampshire police forces over the next year.

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