UK & World News
Sarah's Law Reveals 700 Child Sex Offenders
More than 700 sex offenders have been unmasked using powers under Sarah's Law since it was rolled out nationwide in April 2011.
New figures - released by police forces in England, Wales and Scotland under the Freedom of Information Act - show on average about five child sex offenders have been revealed every week since the scheme was launched.
Avon and Somerset Police uncovered the most paedophiles, with 42 separate individuals being identified, followed closely by Devon and Cornwall Police which disclosed 39 offenders.
The figures also show police forces received 4,754 applications from parents and guardians wanting to know whether people who have contact with children pose a risk - meaning just one in seven result in a disclosure.
However, applications have fallen since the scheme was launched, from 1,944 in 2011/2012 to 1,106 so far in 2013/2014, while disclosures have also declined from 281 in the first year to 122 in current year to April.
Charities and campaigners have expressed concern that only one in seven applications result in a disclosure and raised questions over how well the scheme is being publicised in the face of waning numbers of applications.
However, other groups said the figures highlighted a "worrying shift of responsibility" away from the state and onto ordinary members of the public in dealing with sex offenders.
Donald Findlater, director of research and development at Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a charity which works with sexual abusers as well as victims, said: "Given the apparent drop in applications since the start of the scheme, albeit small, we have some concern that people may not know the scheme is available to them.
"We would like to see continued public awareness and publicity, whether by local forces or nationally by the Home Office, so that people know that this means of checking someone out exists.
"While the number of applications being made is small, at 4,754 over two and half years, the conversion rate of one in seven applications resulting in a disclosure is encouraging. It shows that adults can and do notice worrying behaviour in others around them - a key factor in keeping children safe.
"Our concern here would be the other six out of seven people who made an application but did not get a disclosure. The police know of only a proportion of offenders - many have not been caught and are not on any police database. For members of the public to make an application to police they must have had some concerns in the first place."
The Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme, known as Sarah's Law, was brought in following a campaign by Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter Sarah was murdered by convicted paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000.
The scheme is a watered-down version of laws in the US under which details of where convicted paedophiles live are actively publicised.
Under the Home Office scheme, parents can ask police about anyone with access to their children and officers will reveal details confidentially if they think it is in the child's interests.
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