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Murdered boy's mum tells MLAs to back Sarah's Law

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 08/06/2015

Plea: Margaret Ann Cummings
Plea: Margaret Ann Cummings

A mother whose eight-year-old son was murdered by a sex offender has urged MLAs not to spurn the chance to save a child's life.

Margaret Ann Cummings has given her backing to proposals for a paedophile disclosure scheme in Northern Ireland.

Her son Mark was sexually assaulted, strangled and thrown down a rubbish chute in Glasgow in 2004. She later fronted a successful campaign for parents in Scotland to have the right to know if a sex offender has access to their children.

Ms Cummings believes it has saved lives, and has urged Northern Ireland's politicians to agree similar legislation.

"I think they need to put vulnerable people before the rights of sex offenders," she told the Belfast Telegraph.

"It would give parents and the community a safety net, meaning they would know who they are bringing into their families."

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK not to have a paedophile disclosure scheme. DUP MLA Lord Morrow has been pushing to close the loophole.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed last week that he and a second DUP MLA, Paul Frew, had tabled an amendment to the Justice Bill. It has been backed by Justice Minister David Ford, despite his initial concerns about the proposal. If passed it will bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.

Sarah's Law was introduced in England and Wales following the murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne by a sex offender in 2000.

And Mark's Law came into force in Scotland after a campaign by Ms Cummings. She believes the legislation can make a difference.

"It has already been proven that it has saved children's lives," she added. "We're not a vigilante country, we are human beings that want to protect our children.

"Just one bit of information can save a child's life."

Mark's killer, Stuart Leggate, had previous convictions for sexually assaulting children and was on the sex offenders' register at the time.

Mark's mother believes he would still be alive today had disclosure legislation been in force.

"I believe he would still be here," she added. "If we had known that Leggate was staying in the flat - we're a close-knit community and if anybody had seen Mark speaking to him they would have removed Mark."

Ms Cummings believes the legislation means her son's death was not in vain.

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