MORE than 700 paedophiles have been unmasked across the UK using powers under Sarah’s Law since it was rolled out nationwide – with 64 offenders identified in Yorkshire.
New figures, released by police forces under the Freedom of Information Act, show on average about five child sex offenders have been revealed every week in the UK since 2011 when the scheme was launched.
Sarah’s Law allows parents, carers and guardians to formally ask the police to tell them if someone has a record for child sexual offences.
It was developed in consultation with Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter Sarah was murdered by a convicted paedophile in 2001.
Under the Home Office scheme, parents can ask police about anyone with access to their children and officers will reveal details confidentially if they think it is in the child’s interests.
Across England, Wales and Scotland, police forces have received 4,754 applications from parents or guardians since 2011 – resulting in a total of 708 child sex offenders being disclosed.
In Yorkshire and the Humber, a total of 523 applications have been submitted to police since 2011 – with the most in West Yorkshire, where 178 applications have been made.
Overall, applications have fallen across the UK since the scheme was launched, from 1,944 in 2011/2012 to 1,106 so far in 2013/2104 – a finding also echoed in North Yorkshire and South Yorkshire.
In the Humber, the number of applications has remained largely the same, around 55 a year, but West Yorkshire bucked the trend with 96 applications in 2013/2014 so far – more than three times the 31 applications in 2012/13.
For disclosures, West Yorkshire fell in line with the UK average, with one in seven resulting in a disclosure.
One in six resulted in a disclosure for South Yorkshire, and one in three for North Yorkshire, but just one in 32 resulted in a disclosure for applications in the Humber.
Charities and campaigners have expressed concern at disclosure rates and raised questions over how well the scheme is being publicised in the face of waning numbers of applications.
Donald Findlater, the director of research and development at Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a charity which works with sexual abusers as well as victims, said: “While the number of applications being made is small, at 4,754 over two and half years, the conversion rate of one in seven applications resulting in a disclosure is encouraging.
“It shows that adults can and do notice worrying behaviour in others around them – a key factor in keeping children safe.
“Our concern here would be the other six out of seven people who made an application but did not get a disclosure.
“The police know of only a proportion of offenders – many have not been caught and are not on any police database. For members of the public to make an application to police they must have had some concerns in the first place.”
He added: “Given the apparent drop in applications since the start of the scheme, albeit small, we have some concern that people may not know the scheme is available to them.”