Children’s charities attack UK pilots of ‘Megan’s law’

A pilot scheme similar to Megan’s law that will allow parents to identify sex offenders in their area will run in north east Somerset, the Home Office said today.

But the scheme has drawn criticism from children’s charities Barnardo’s, the NSPCC and NCH. Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo’s, warned it would put more children in danger.

Megan’s law, which was introduced in the USA after the murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994 by a known local paedophile, enables parents to find out if sex offenders live nearby.

Under the north east Somerset scheme, single mothers will also be able to find out if a new partner has a record of harming or abusing children and head teachers will be informed of sex offenders living or operating near their school. It will be one of three pilots run nationally.

Last year, Home Office minister Gerry Sutcliffe went to the US to look at how the scheme was run as part of a review of government policy on child sex offenders. Dan Norris, Labour MP for Wansdyke in north east Somerset, who has campaigned for the introduction of the scheme in the UK, said the pilot was “an important blow in the fight against paedophiles.”

While the Home Office would not confirm the details of the scheme, Norris said parents would be likely to be given access to the number of paedophiles in the area but would not be given individual names, adding that the details were yet to be finalised.

A Home Office spokesperson did say today that there was “no intention” to import Megan’s law “wholesale” to the UK. She added: “The government is committed to protecting the public and determined to strengthen arrangements for dealing with sex offenders in the community. The review of child sex offenders is ongoing and we will continue to listen to the views of all those involved.”

Martin Narey from Barnardo’s said:

“There are already sound and workable arrangements whereby, for example, head teachers are made aware of the proximity of sex offenders. But a more general arrangement where anyone can be told there are sex offenders in their area will, inevitably, lead to them fleeing supervision.

Our only concern is the welfare of children. We know that dangerous sex offenders need constant and intensive supervision, in Barnardo’s view, with the added use of polygraphy and satellite tracking. Offenders who flee from supervision and go underground – ­ a sure consequence if these measures are introduced -­ could become extremely dangerous.”

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