UK Liberty

Sarah’s Law

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on April 13, 2007

The Sarah’s Law campaign was setup by the News of the World newspaper in response to the tragic abduction and murder of an eight year old girl by a man convicted five years prior of abducting and molesting a girl of the same age.

The proposals are comparable to Megan’s Law – this representing a number of similar state laws in the USA.

The campaign is for

The legal right of every parent to know the identity of serious child sex offenders living in their community.

However, with severe penalties in place for anybody who misuses this information.

The News of the World claimed on Sunday that it had won the battle (reproduced here because there doesn’t seem to be a permalink):

MAJOR test-runs of Sarah’s Law are being set up in a historic victory for the News of the World campaign to protect Britain’s kids from paedophiles.

For the first time parents will have the RIGHT to know if predatory perverts live in their neighbourhood.

Seven years after the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne sparked our crusade, ministers are poised to change the law and make it happen.

This year the Home Office will run THREE pilot schemes around the UK before launching nationwide.

The first area chosen is Wansdyke in north-east Somerset with 50 schools and a population of 100,000, picked because it includes rural villages, towns and a slice of the city of Bristol.

The test-run means:

PARENTS can demand to know if serial paedophiles live on their street, their children’s route to school and around their nursery or playground.

SINGLE MUMS can find out if a new partner has a record and is a risk.

SCHOOL heads can be told of sexual predators nearby.

The pilots are expected to run for three to six months before a nationwide roll-out. Home Office officials want to assess how many use the new powers and the impact on local communities.

Single mums will be the first to benefit. It is thought the scheme will then extend to ALL parents and headteachers.

They will not be given exact names and addresses but will be told how many paedophiles are in the area and the degree of risk.

It is a difficult issue and not one to be treated lightly.

And that is why the people in charge of this at the Home Office should be ashamed.

As Alice Miles of the Times wrote on Tuesday,

As I write, all that the Home Office will confirm is that a story that appeared in Sunday’s News of the World — from which the details above are taken — is accurate, but that it does not know any more than that. This seems a strange way to make policy, given the amount of critical detail that is absent from the News of the World story. You cannot say Sarah’s law is happening unless you know exactly how it is happening. But this, remember, is John Reid’s Home Office, so we shouldn’t be too surprised; government by headline is what he does.

And even as I write, the policy is disappearing. The Home Office rings with some “additional guidance”: they are still “in discussion with stakeholders about piloting this model of disclosure”. We are not, parrots the poor mouthpiece forced to spew out Mr Reid’s rubbish, at a “formalised announcement” stage: “We are very much encouraging people not to say that this is what’s going to happen.”

There. Despite having spent two days telling people that it was going to happen — and allowing Sarah’s poor mother, who has been campaigning for Sarah’s law for seven years, to believe it was on its way and publicly to welcome it — there, in the puff of a headline, it is gone. Shame, shame, shame on them.

Regardless of the merits or otherwise of such a law – and there are differences of opinion, as can be established by a glance at article and the public’s comments on it – this seems a shabby way to treat such a serious issue.

Home Office statement.

The Guardian has some history.

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