Hundreds of Merseyside parents seek details on paedophile risk from police under Sarah's Law

Merseyside Police received 355 applications under the scheme as of the end of 2018-19
Merseyside Police received 355 applications under the scheme as of the end of 2018-19

​Hundreds of parents or carers in Merseyside have applied to the police to find out whether someone with access to their child is a sex offender.

Child abuse prevention helpline Stop It Now! says the rising number of applications made under the sexual offender disclosure scheme Sarah's Law is proof of increasing awareness among parents and carers.

Sarah's Law, officially known as the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme, was introduced in 2011 following the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne in 2000.

It allows anyone to ask their local police force if someone has a record of committing sex crimes against children.

Merseyside Police had received 355 applications under the scheme as of the end of 2018-19, according to a Freedom of Information request by Portsmouth University's journalism department.

Applications under Sarah's Law can be made by anyone, but the police will only inform the person who is able to protect the child.

This means that if a grandparent were to enquire about the new partner of their grandchild's parent, the police would only inform the parent, and not the grandparent, if the partner was found to have a history of sexual offences.

All 46 police forces in Great Britain were contacted by the university, but only 32 were able to provide figures stretching back to 2011-12.

This revealed an 80% rise in applications under the scheme, climbing from 1,289 to 2,318 last year.

Just 22 forces provided figures for the number of disclosures they had made, of which Merseyside Police was not one.

This revealed that 219 parents were told someone with access to their child had a history of sex offences, up from 120 in 2011-12.

​In Merseyside, applications have decreased 2% since 2011-12, when there were 48.

Donald Findlater, director of child abuse helpline Stop It Now!, said it was "reassuring" to see the figures growing nationally.

He said: "I think the rise is demonstrating a level of interest in safeguarding children and seeking information greater than we have had historically.

"I would like to see this trend continue because it is demonstrating awareness and vigilance.

"One in 10 children experience sexual abuse and one of the biggest problems is people are blind to the reality of it and think, 'it won't happen around here'.

"The fact that people are making the applications demonstrates to me that people are aware that the children they love and care about may be vulnerable to abuse."