The Home Office has rejected the introduction of a “Megan’s law” in the UK to routinely disclose the identities of local sex offenders to the public, it announced today in its long-awaited review of the protection of children from sex offenders.
However, charities and probation leaders have criticised plans to introduce a “presumption of disclosure” when parents request information on whether adults who have unsupervised contact with their children are convicted sex offenders.
The review accepted criticisms from campaigners that the disclosure of sex offenders’ identities to communities, as happens across the USA, would drive paedophiles underground, deterring them from notifying the authorities of their whereabouts.
Instead, it will introduce a duty on police and probation services to consider disclosing offenders’ identities to the public in every case, and a presumption of disclousure to parents if the authorities consider the paedophile poses a risk of serious harm to their children.
It will pilot a scheme where parents can register their interest in specific individuals who have unsupervised contact with their children, for instance in the case of a single mother and her new partner, and receive information if there is a risk of serious harm.
Children’s charity Barnardo’s welcomed the rejection of Megan’s Law, however principal policy officer Pam Hibbert warned that the pilot disclosure schemes may still drive offenders underground, putting children at risk.
Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary at probation union Napo, said it was “extremely difficult” to see how the pilot scheme would work in practice, given evidence of inaccurate information on offenders on police records and the need to ensure details were not passed on, resulting in vigilante action.