One of the UK’s leading experts on child abuse, Manchester based Peter Garsden spoke today of how he believes claims that the Home Office plans to pilot a scheme giving single single mothers access to information regarding the background of a new partner or boyfriend is a step in the right direction but does not go far enough.
His comments follow claims yesterday that the Home Office have backed down over plans to introduce a US-style “Megan’s law” to deal with child sex offenders living in the community.
In December the Home Office said that members of the public would be able to ask for checks to be run on local people they suspected of being paedophiles. But Mr Reid’s department said yesterday that this would not now happen. They will not be given the right to information about paedophiles in their neighbourhoods except in very specific circumstances. Nor are they to be told how many sex offenders live near local school routes and playgrounds after the proposals were criticised by children’s charities and senior police officers.
Instead Parents, guardians and carers will be able to ask whether a person has child-sex convictions only if that person is able to spend time alone with the child. Proposed pilot schemes in three areas giving single women the right to ask for checks on the background of a new partner or boyfriend, as part of the drive to tackle the paedophiles who prey on mothers living alone with their children are to begin next month. Dan Norris, MP for Wansdyke in North East Somerset, claimed the first of three pilot schemes would run in his constituency. But the Home Office said it was too soon to discuss any pilot schemes.
It added: “Under the existing public protection legislation, a limited form of disclosure already exists, and the review is looking at how best to focus the impact of any extension to this important principle.”
Peter Garsden, whose company represents child abuse victims across the UK, said, “ the balanced way in which the Americans view paedophiles because of an open register is a lesson for this country. In order to remove the danger of vigilantism the register has to be made completely open as in America. Only then will the paedophile be discouraged from going underground and the subject become more open and less secretive. Only if everyone can see where a paedophile lives can steps be taken to keep children away from them.