Sunday, May 03, 2009

Law & Order : Parents will obtain right to order background checks over anyone with access to children

Parents in Scotland will soon be given the right to call for background checks on people who have access to their children, and will be informed if those persons have convictions for sex offences.

The Herald reports :

Parents in Scotland get new rights to check on sex offenders

Concerned parents in Scotland are to be given new rights to know if a sex offender has access to their children, the Scottish Government today announced.

A pilot project will allow members of the public to call for backgrounds checks - with a presumption that police will tell parents if the person identified has convictions for sex offences.

If a youngster is found to be at serious risk of harm then child protection measures will be instigated.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "The protection of our children is of the greatest importance to all of us.

"There are few crimes more damaging, more emotive and more sensitive than sexual offences against children."

The scheme will allow a mother to ask whether a new partner has a record of child sex offences. If police fear a risk, they can tell her.

The issue came into focus after the murder of eight-year-old Mark Cummings in 2004 by convicted sex offender Stuart Leggate who lived in the same tower block.

None of the residents in the block in Royston, Glasgow were told when Leggate moved in.

The scheme is similar to a project already under way in England and was welcomed today by Tory leader Annabel Goldie who first raised the issue at Holyrood earlier this year.

"We must consider all reasonable steps to protect our children from the evil of predatory sex offenders," she said.

"I am pleased that the Scottish Government has now responded and will introduce a trial later this year."

More than 3,000 registered sex offenders are living in Scotland, according to figures released last year, although most complied with the notification requirements of the sex offenders register.

There were 183 breaches of the notification requirements, according to Government figures.

Mr MacAskill said that "blanket disclosure" could force offenders underground and put children at greater risk.

But he added: "While we must all rightly be alert to 'stranger danger', most sexual offences against children are in fact committed by individuals known to the child's family, adults who abuse a position of trust with that child."

He said the pilot has the potential to provide "a further level of protection" against those who seek to abuse children.

The pilot will get under way in September and run until next May in a police force area yet to be identified.

Parents, carers and guardians of under 18s will be able to register a child protection interest in named individuals.

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