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Sarah's Law explained...

“If I close my eyes, I can see her and hear her''. The last thing I remember is Sarah just waving and she was like ‘go, go, go… we’ll see you at home’.”

These are the words of Sarah Payne's mother. Sarah, who was only an 8 year old girl, was abducted and murdered by a convicted paedophile, Roy Whiting in a high-profile case in July 2000.

Sarah’s Law came into existence as a result of what happened to Sarah, to protect innocent children from harm, and from known sex offenders. The scheme was implemented by the police force in England and Wales on 4th April 2011. In the first year alone, Sarah's Law protected more than 200 children against known sex offenders.

What is Sarah’s Law?

Sarah’s Law allows an individual to ask the police to check if a person who has contact with a child, poses a risk to that child. If the police check confirms that the person in question has a conviction(s) for sexual offences against children or, they pose a risk of causing harm, then the police can choose to disclose this information to the parent, carer, or guardian of that child.

Sarah’s Law has made it possible for anyone who has concerns regarding an individual’s contact with their child, to make enquiries with their local police force for the purposes of safeguarding their child from the risk of harm. These enquiries also have the added impact of alerting the police to the fact that someone who should not be having contact with children, is doing so, and this can bring into effect other mechanisms to monitor and mitigate potential future harm.

It is key to note that information is not guaranteed to be given, and if you are provided with any information, this must be kept confidential. Information will also only be released to the person considered to be primarily responsible for the child's welfare. Such as a parent, carer or guardian.

Why do we need Sarah’s Law?

According to the NSPCC, almost 87,000 sexual offences against children were recorded by police in 2022/23. Also according to the NSPCC, sexual offences against children are at record levels.

In an article published in February 2024,the NSPCC share that through its research with young people, around 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused. Their data has further discovered a third of all police-recorded sexual offences, are against children. The data also shows that majority of children who experience sexual abuse (rape, assault by penetration including attempts) were abused by someone they know, and the abuse is most likely to have occurred in someone else’s home or  their own.

According to the Office of National Statistics, (ONS), sexual abuse has become the most common type of abuse reported to and counselled by Childline. It was also the most reported type of abuse by adults who have called the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC’s) helpline in the year ending 2019.

I leave you with some words from Sara Payne, upon receiving the verdict that Roy Whiting had been convicted of her child’s murder and imprisoned for life, ‘This doesn't make us happy, but justice has been done. Sarah can rest in peace now. Let's make sure that this stops happening time and time again.’

-Author, Diya Kaur Cheema of Family Law Direct

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