British Set to Extend Checks on Sex Offenders

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Is your nanny a sex offender?

Parents in Great Britain may soon be able find out. The British are set to extended "Sarah's Law" nationwide. The law allows parents to ask police if people with regular unsupervised access to their kids have been arrested for sex crimes against children.

It is modeled after "Megan's Law" in the United States, which followed the 1994 kidnap, rape and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka in New Jersey. The British version came after the 2000 murder of 8-year-old Sarah Payne.

The British law started with trial projects in Hampshire, Warwickshire, Cambridgeshire and Cleveland. After some political tussling, it is now set to be extended throughout the country.
British Home Secretary Alan Johnson tells the London Daily Mail that the results from the pilot projects are "extremely encouraging."

"Protecting children and families from sex offenders is one of my top priorities, and the UK already has one of the most robust systems of managing sex offenders in the world," he tells the Mail. "The development of this scheme is a major step forward in our ability to protect children from sex offenders."

He adds that authorities are studying the results of the year-long pilot project and are "talking to the police and children's charities before a final decision on rolling out the scheme is made shortly."

Payne was killed in West Sussex 10 years ago. Her mother, Sara Payne, campaigned vigorously in support of the new law. Now in a hospital bed, recovering from a life-threatening aneurysm she suffered before Christmas, she tells the Daily Mail she is encouraged by recent developments.

"In all the long years of campaigning for parents' rights to keep their children safe from predatory pedophiles, this is the most important development to date," Payne tells the paper. "For the first time, the police have a duty to respond and share information where appropriate. Put simply, worried mums and dads who ask must now be told of anyone's offending history where a child is at risk."

Chris Huhne, the home affairs spokesman for Britain's Liberal Democrat party, nonetheless urges caution.

"We need far more information about these trials before they are rolled out across the country," he tells the Mail. "'The concern is that this will do nothing for the safety of children."

The announcement that the program may be extended comes just before general elections in Britain, possibly in May. Michele Elliott, founder of children's charity Kidscape, tells the Mail the timing is suspicious.

"It's interesting that they have chosen to do this now with an election around the corner," she tells the paper. "It's a popular thing, but whatever the motivation of the politicians, it's important that parents will now be able to get access to this information."

Related: Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.