Extra measures for child protection

TRAGIC: Eight-year-old Sarah payne

TRAGIC: Eight-year-old Sarah payne

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ELEMENTS of Sarah’s Law could be introduced in the Isle of Man by the end of this year.

But unlike the UK, there will no presumption on disclosure of information about child sex offenders.

Instead, each case will be considerd on its own merits and disclosure will only be made if necessary where there is potential to protect a specific child from significant harm.

Sarah’s Law enables members of the public to ask the police whether an individual such as a neighbour or family friend is a convicted sex offender.

It was introduced in the UK following lobbying by the mother of murdered eight-year-old Sarah Payne

The Department of Home Affairs initially said the law wouldn’t be brought in here but formed a working party following a Facebook campaign to which more than 2,000 people pledged support.

In the House of Keys this week, Bill Henderson (Douglas North) asked Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson when principles of Sarah’s Law would become operational.

Mr Watterson said he was pleased to report ‘considerable progress’ had been made in implementing recommendations.

He said multi-agency public protection arrangements, which exist to manage the risk posed by offenders to the local community, had been revised and updated earlier this year.

The Minister explained that the new arrangements require that a decision regarding the disclosure of information about a child sex offender would be considered and the reasons for the decision taken on disclosure would be recorded.

He said: ‘Members will appreciate this is a complex and sensitive area but every effort will be made to demonstrate a spirit of openness in disclosure decisions.’

Mr Watterson said plans to publish the arrangements were currently being drawn up.

A new Sex Offender Bill is also being drafted to ensure sex offenders subject to reporting restrictions in another jurisdiction must report to the island’s authorities when they travel here.

He said the department would be aiming to raise awareness about the issue of sexual abuse. He said: ‘Clearly, this highly sensitive matter will require a careful approach but we see awareness raising as crucial in preventing the type of abuse which has featured prominently in the UK media in recent weeks.

‘I am aware of the public interest in this topic and intend to issue regular updates on progress in protecting children in the Isle of Man. This is and will remain one of my highest priorities.’

Mr Henderson asked for a timeframe for the recommendations to be rolled out.

Mr Watterson replied: ‘My intention is to roll this out as quickly as possible. I would like to have this done by the end of the year.’

Sarah’s Law was introduced in the UK in 2008 as a pilot in four police force areas. Despite initial concern that it could lead to vigilante attacks, national roll-out has now been completed and it is operational in all 43 police forces areas.

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