New laws over sex offender checks

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The Independent Online

Headteachers and care home owners will be fined or jailed if they fail to carry out sex offender checks on staff working with children.

The new crackdown, launched yesterday, follows the controversy in January which almost wrecked the career of Education Secretary Ruth Kelly, when it emerged that at least 88 people listed as sex offenders had been cleared to work in schools since 1997.

Employers will now face fines of up to £5,000 or, in extreme cases, five years in prison if they employ someone who has not been vetted. Imprisonment is only likely to be imposed where there is evidence of collusion between the employer and the sex offender.

In addition, the new legislation will allow parents to carry out instant checks on the internet to find out whether potential nannies, tutors or care workers have been barred from working with children. The current "List 99" of barred teachers and lists of those precluded from working in childcare settings will also be merged in one registe.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the legislation would mean "parents should be more confident about the adults working with children".