“Child protection is priority’ says Sussex Police

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Sussex Police have reassured the public that protecting children under Sarah’s Law is its priority.

The disclosure scheme, set up by the Home Office, enables parents, guardians and carers to request information about any person who they think may pose a risk of harm to a child.

This was launched following the death of seven-year-old Sarah Payne whose body was found dumped in a field near Pulborough in 2000.

Her murderer, Roy Whiting, of Littlehampton, was convicted in December 2001 and received a life sentence.

Detective Chief Inspector for Public Protection Pierre Serra said: “Sarah’s Law has helped us to protect children across Sussex since 2011. I can reassure the public of Sussex Police’s absolute commitment to the protection of children and they are always our priority.”

“Out of the 193 applications, 14 were given disclosures. Of the remainder there may have been no information about that person to disclose, information may already be in the public domain and at times we have made disclosures to family members who have direct responsibility for a child or information may have already been shared with partner agencies,. Each case is assessed after careful consideration, thorough checks and risk assessments.

“Once a request is made from a member of the public an initial risk assessment is carried out to establish if a child is at risk, and relevant, immediate action will be taken. Each request will be assessed on an individual basis and further risk assessment processes are overseen by experienced staff from the safeguarding investigation teams.

“An officer and the person who has made the request will meet to establish further details in order to assess any risk and provide proof of identity. Also checks will be carried out both nationally and locally into the person in question.

“The decision to disclose or not is decided by a detective inspector and will be discussed with the person who is best placed to care for the child, not necessarily the person who made the request. The request will be assessed on whether the person poses any risk to children.

“Details about a person’s previous convictions are treated as confidential and will only be disclosed if it is lawful, necessary and proportionate to do so to protect a child from harm. If the individual enquired about does not have a record of child sexual offences or any other information indicating that they pose a risk of serious harm to the child, then there won’t be any information given because there is nothing to disclose. It may be the case that the person being asked about is not known to the police for child sexual offences or other information that indicates they pose a risk of harm to children but they are showing worrying behaviour. In this case we will work to protect the child and will provide advice and support.

“The rationale behind the request will be assessed as there may be another intention for asking for the disclosure. Where there is no disclosure made, the person who applied for the information may be supported to help keep the child they are concerned about safe.

“We continue to work with a range of other partner agencies to manage the risks posed by registered sex offenders under the Multi-agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).”

To find out more about the disclosure scheme go to http://www.sussex.police.uk/help-centre/ask-us/data-protection,-crb-and-freedom-of-information/how-do-i-apply-for-information-under-the-child-sex-offender-disclosure-scheme

The scheme allows requests to be considered about individuals suspected or convicted of other offences which have caused or could cause a child to be at risk of harm.