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Protecting children from sexual abuse: extending the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Pilot

Protecting children from sexual abuse: extending the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Pilot

HOME OFFICE News Release (046/2009) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 16 March 2009

At least ten children have been protected from potential abuse by sex offenders in the first six months of the Government's Child Sexual Offender Disclosure Pilot, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced today.

This early success has led to the decision to extend the scheme within the police forces involved. From today, the pilot will be extended force-wide in Cleveland, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire (including the Isle of Wight). The fourth pilot site, Warwickshire, is already force-wide.

Since the pilot launched six months ago, provisional management information which has been provided by the police forces shows there have been a total of 153 enquiries and 79 applications from parents, carers and guardians. Ten disclosures have taken place.

Under the terms of the pilot, launched in September 2008, a parent, carer or guardian can request that an individual who has access to their child or children is checked out for a record of child sexual offences.

If this individual is found to have convictions for sexual offences against children, and poses a risk of causing serious harm to the child or children concerned, then this information may be disclosed to the person best placed to protect the child - usually the parent, carer or guardian.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

"Protecting children and families from sex offenders is one of my top priorities and the UK has one of the most robust systems of managing sex offenders in the world. Today's results are extremely encouraging - this pilot has provided crucial protection for children who might otherwise be at risk.

"The development of this scheme in consultation with Sara Payne, the police and children's charities has been a major step forward in our ability to protect children from sex offenders but also to empower parents and guardians to understand how to best protect their children.

"There will be a full evaluation of the pilot at the end of the year and if it concludes that the pilot has been a success then I will be seeking to roll out the scheme nationally."

Under the terms of the pilot, both the child and the subject must live within the pilot site area, which means that there is the potential to protect even more children in these areas.

Keith Bristow, Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police and ACPO lead on violence and public protection said:

"Today's announcement by the Home Secretary to extend the child sex offender disclosure pilot across its four sites gives us an opportunity to increase our understanding of how we share information to keep children and young people safe from harm. Britain has one of the most effective and respected systems for managing child sex offenders in the world. Managed disclosure where parents, carers and guardians have concerns about a named individual in contact with children is part of that process.

"To date, three of the four forces (Cambridgeshire, Cleveland and Hampshire) have been operating the pilot across parts of the force, with Warwickshire operating it force wide. Extending the pilot sites across the forces will allow better evaluation on which to base future decisions. Information from the pilot so far, with over 150 enquiries, has led to 10 disclosures being made.

"The police service is committed to protecting children from any individual who poses harm or risk and the pilot has assisted in raising public awareness of child protection issues. For those parents and carers who have made enquiries, we trust that it has helped give them confidence that their children are safe."

Sara Payne, Victims' Champion said:

"This is great news for the disclosure pilot schemes in Cleveland, Cambridge and Hampshire, (Warwickshire have been county wide from the start in September of 2008). This shows that they are working well and the police are pleased with the outcomes thus far. It was entirely right for them to start in smaller areas and to get used to all things new but as they have found this will prove to be an invaluable tool to both police and carers alike. I am as always keeping a close eye on the progression of the pilots and will have the real results of the evaluation by the end of the year."

1. In June 2007, the Government published the Review of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenders. The disclosure pilots fulfil Action 4 of the Review. Further information can be found at: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/CSOR/chid-sex-offender-review-130607

2. Provisional management information which has been provided by the police forces from 15 September 2008 - 29 February 2009 shows:

Overall Figures
      Total number of enquiries                    153
      Total number of applications                  79
      Total number of disclosures                   10
      Cambridgeshire (Northern Division inc.
      Peterborough + surrounding villages)
      Total number of enquiries                     23
      Total number of applications                   9
      Total number of disclosures                    0
      Cleveland (Stockton BCU)
      Total number of enquiries                     35
      Total number of applications                  11
      Total number of disclosures                    5
      Hampshire (Southampton OCU)
      Total number of enquiries                     23
      Total number of applications                   5
      Total number of disclosures                    0
      Warwickshire (force-wide)
      Total number of enquiries                     72
      Total number of applications                  54
      Total number of disclosures                    5 

Note: Numbers are based upon figures reported by pilot forces not from the Home Office commissioned evaluation, as these are not yet available.

3. More information about the disclosure pilots including leaflets and booklets being used by the police forces can be found at: http://www.direct.gov.uk/keepingchildrensafe

4. The pilots initially took place in four sites selected by police forces. From today, Cleveland, Hampshire and Cambridgeshire will now be operating force wide. Previously it was:
* Warwickshire - force wide
* Cleveland - Stockton Basic Command Unit
* Hampshire - Southampton Operational Command Unit
* Cambridgeshire - Northern Division including Peterborough

5. Warwickshire Police Press Office can be contacted on 01926 415065. Cleveland Police Press Office can be contacted on 01642 301244. Hampshire Police Press Office can be contacted on 08450 454545. Cambridgeshire Police Press Office can be contacted on 08454 564564.

6. Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) are a statutory set of arrangements established in 2001 that bring together the police, probation, prison service and other relevant agencies in each area to assess and manage the risk posed by sexual and violent offenders. MAPPA will discuss and share all the known information about an offender, will use this to identify the potential risks of harm to the public and then using this information devise a risk management plan. MAPPA has always considered the disclosure in individual cases but the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 now places a legal duty on MAPPA authorities to consider disclosure in every child sexual offender case.

7. Case Studies Demonstrating:
- Disclosure
- Partial Disclosure
- Disclosure under MAPPA
- And/or Protective Action

CASE STUDY 1 - Disclosure and protective action taken
The parent of two children made an application about a friend. The parent would visit the address of the friend with their children and the friend would visit the applicant's home address. There was no report of any inappropriate behaviour towards children. The subject of the application was the subject of a Sexual Offences Protection Order (SOPO) including a condition not to have unsupervised contact with a child under 18.

Disclosure was made to the parent and guidance was given in relation to preventing the subject having any further contact with the children. The subject was arrested and charged with breach of a SOPO.

CASE STUDY 2 - No disclosure (because no previous record) but protective action taken
An application was made by the parent of a child who was concerned that a previous family friend may be grooming her daughter in order to commit sexual offences against her. The checks made found that the previous family friend had no convictions for child sexual offending however the nature of the information in the application raised safeguarding children concerns.

The subject was asked to stay away from the family. The subject stayed away but continued to buy the daughter gifts and tried to renew the friendship. The parents obtained a copy of some recent text messages sent to their daughter from the subject, which implied that he may be grooming her.

This incident became subject to a police Child Protection Unit investigation into offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Advice from the Crown Prosecution Service resulted in no criminal charges against the subject. A warning letter was issued in relation to his future conduct towards the girl under the Protection of Harassment Act 1997.

CASE STUDY 3 - Partial disclosure
The applicant was concerned about her mother's new boyfriend as the applicant had received information that he was a sexual offender. The applicant applied for disclosure on the boyfriend because her mother provided childcare for children.

The mother's boyfriend did have convictions for sexual offences against adults. It had also been alleged that he had committed child sex offences although no charges were ever brought.

A Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements meeting was held to consider if this information should be shared with the applicant. A decision was made to disclose limited information to applicant and her mother. This was seen as necessary to allow the applicant and her mother to protect the children from harm.

CASE STUDY 4 - No disclosure
The applicant is the father of a child who was separated from the child's mother. The child lives with her mother. The subject is the new partner of the child's mother and lives with the child and her mother at an address within the Pilot area. The applicant had concerns about the new partner.

Checks on the subject revealed no previous convictions for child sexual offending or any other information to indicate a safeguarding risk to the child. There were no grounds for any disclosure of information to the applicant in this case.

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