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Mother's relentless campaign for statute

By Adrian Rutherford

Sarah's Law was introduced in England and Wales in 2011 following a campaign by the mother of Sarah Payne.

The eight-year-old was murdered by Roy Whiting, a convicted paedophile.

Sarah, who lived in Surrey, disappeared on the evening of July 1, 2000 from a cornfield near the home of her grandparents, Terence and Lesley Payne. Her body was found 16 days later in a field about 15 miles from where she had disappeared.

Whiting was convicted of Sarah's abduction and murder in December 2001 and sentenced to life imprisonment. It later emerged he had previously abducted and sexually assaulted an eight-year-old girl and been sentenced to four years in prison. However, Sarah's family were never told there was a paedophile living in their midst.

After her daughter's murder, Sara Payne campaigned for legislation which would allow parents to find out if they were living near a sex offender.

She urged the then Home Secretary David Blunkett to change the law to allow restricted public access to the sex offenders' register.

It was partly inspired by Megan's Law in the United States, which was introduced following the rape and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka in 1994.

Initially there was opposition from child care agencies and some police forces, who feared it would trigger vigilante attacks.

Mrs Payne's relentless lobbying of a succession of Prime Ministers and Home Secretaries finally forced a series of breakthroughs. A scheme where parents could inquire about a named individual was piloted in four areas in England and Wales in September 2008. The Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme was later extended to cover the whole of England and Wales.

A similar scheme was introduced in Scotland in 2011.

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