'Sarah's Law' pilot scheme to be extended

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The Independent Online

A pilot scheme allowing parents to check if someone has a history of child sex offences is expected to be rolled out nationally, it was revealed today.

The scheme enables a parent the right to check with police if anyone with regular unsupervised access to their children has a criminal conviction for child sex offences.

The programme, known as Sarah's Law, follows the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne by convicted sex offender Roy Whiting 10 years ago.

The youngster's mother, Sara, was crowned the Government's Victims Champion after her ceaseless attempts to bring in the law based on the so-called Megan's Law in the US which allows the publication of names, addresses and pictures of paedophiles in some states.

The pilot scheme has been running across four areas.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said: "Protecting children and families from sex offenders is one of my top priorities and the UK already has one of the most robust systems of managing sex offenders in the world.

"The development of this scheme is a major step forward in our ability to protect children from sex offenders.

"Early results are extremely encouraging and the pilot has provided crucial protection for children who might otherwise be at risk.

"We are still evaluating the results from the year-long pilot and are talking to the police and children's charities before a final decision on rolling out the scheme is made shortly."

Sara Payne told the News of the World: "In all the long years of campaigning for parents' rights to keep their children safe from predatory paedophiles, this is the most important development to date."

The child protection campaigner fell ill just before Christmas and was initially thought to be in a life-threatening condition.

But she responded well to treatment after complications following brain surgery and her health has improved.