Last updated at 10:37 AM on 1st August 2010
Theresa May today announced a huge extension of the 'Sarah's Law' paedophile early warning system.
A pilot in four areas launched in 2008 has now been rolled out to eight more forces and will apply across England and Wales by next March.
The scheme allows worried parents or neighbours to ask police if a person they are concerned about has a history of child sex abuse.
Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah was killed by convicted paedophile Roy Whiting in July 2000, led a high-profile campaign calling for a British equivalent.
Under the Home Office scheme, parents can ask the police about anyone with access to their children and officers will reveal details confidentially if they think it is in the child's interests.
Sarah Payne was kidnapped and murdered by convicted paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000. The case sparked a campaign for a British equivalent to 'Megan's Law'
The trial took place in Cambridgeshire, Cleveland, Hampshire and Warwickshire.
It is being extended to West Mercia, Bedfordshire, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Thames Valley, West Midlands, Essex and Suffolk.
A further expansion is planned for the autumn, with Northamptonshire, Staffordshire, Sussex, Leicestershire, Wiltshire, Cheshire, Durham, Northumbria, Dorset, Lincolnshire, Surrey and Gloucestershire joining the scheme.
The Home Secretary hailed the move as an 'important step forward for child protection' which would also help police manage known sex offenders more effectively.
'The roll-out of this scheme is an important step forward for child protection in this country,' she said.
'Being able to make these checks reassures parents and the community and more importantly keeps children safer.
'Not only will it help parents, carers or guardians ensure that their children are safe, but it also assists the police in managing known sex offenders living in the community more effectively.
'The start of the nationwide roll-out will mean even more children will be protected from potential harm.'
Campaign: Sarah's mother Sara has fought for an early warning system
More than 60 children were protected from abuse during the pilot scheme which started in four areas of the UK in September 2008, according to the Home Office.
Almost 600 inquiries to the four forces involved in the pilot led to 315 applications and 21 disclosures about registered child sex offenders.
A further 43 cases led to other safeguarding actions, including referrals to children's social care, and 11 general disclosures were made regarding protection issues linked to violent offending.
Acpo president Sir Hugh Orde told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: 'I think the reassurance is having the law available if you are worried.
'It is only part of the far wider way in which the police service keep young people safe... It is a welcome part of that armoury, but it is only part of it.
'The pilots have shown clearly that it has brought to attention people who should be registered and should be out there engaging with people under the age of 18.
'As the Home Secretary is keen to roll this out quickly, we are working very closely with Government to get it out there as quickly as we can around the country.'
Asked whether he was concerned that the law might have unintended consequences, Sir Hugh said: 'There are always risks. People say people will go underground - frankly, people go underground anyway.
'With all the other parts of the police service working also in this area, I do think we have got a real hope of keeping people safer and keeping young people safer, which is very important.'
Some charities also warned that the scheme could backfire by driving paedophiles underground.
Diana Sutton, of the NSPCC, said: 'It's good that the disclosure pilots have helped to protect children.
'However, the Government needs to tread cautiously in rolling out the scheme to more police forces.
'We remain concerned about the risk of vigilante action and sex offenders going underground. All new local schemes need close management and proper resourcing to avoid this.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1299364/Sarahs-Law-goes-nationwide-Parents-given-ahead-check-paedophiles.html#ixzz0vM89NPXE
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