Child abuse prevention helpline Stop It Now! says the rising number of applications made under the sexual offender disclosure scheme Sarah’s Law is proof of increasing awareness among parents and carers.
Sarah’s Law, officially known as the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme, was introduced in 2011 following the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne in 2000.
It allows anyone to ask their local police force if someone has a record of committing sex crimes against children.
Lancashire Constabulary received 70 applications under the scheme in 2018-19, according to a Freedom of Information request by Portsmouth University’s journalism department.
Of these, 10 (14 per cent) resulted in the police disclosing details of a sex offender’s history.
Applications under Sarah’s Law can be made by anyone, but the police will only inform the person who is able to protect the child.
This means that if a grandparent were to enquire about the new partner of their grandchild’s parent, the police would only inform the parent, and not the grandparent, if the partner was found to have a history of sexual offences.
All 46 police forces in Great Britain were contacted by the university, but only 28 were able to provide comparable figures.
This revealed a 27 per cent rise in applications under the scheme over the last three years, rising from 1,566 for the 28 forces in 2016-17 to 1,985 last year.
There were 296 disclosures made to parents or carers last year, up from 189 in 2016-17.
In Lancashire, applications decreased 44 per cent since 2016-17, when there were 125.
Donald Findlater, director of child abuse helpline Stop It Now!, said it was “reassuring” to see the figures growing nationally.
He said: “I think the rise is demonstrating a level of interest in safeguarding children and seeking information greater than we have had historically.
“I would like to see this trend continue because it is demonstrating awareness and vigilance.
“One in 10 children experience sexual abuse and one of the biggest problems is people are blind to the reality of it and think, ‘it won’t happen around here’.
“The fact that people are making the applications demonstrates to me that people are aware that the children they love and care about may be vulnerable to abuse.”