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Sarah's Law 'will keep young safer'

The extension of Sarah's Law across the country offers "real hope" of keeping children safer, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers has said.

The Home Office scheme, introduced in response to the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne by convicted sex offender Roy Whiting 10 years ago, allows parents to check if someone with regular unsupervised access to their children has a criminal record for abuse.

Child protection experts have raised concerns that the law may make it more difficult for police to monitor sex offenders in the community or may encourage vigilante attacks.

Diana Sutton, of the NSPCC, urged the Government to "tread cautiously", warning: "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."

And child protection expert Mike Hames told Sky News: "I have got reservations about it. There's always a possibility that if we tell people who aren't in the police force or one of the caring agencies about the fact that somebody is a registered sex offender then the information might get out, and there is always a chance that that person's house will be burnt down or they will be forced to move."

But Acpo president Sir Hugh Orde told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "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."

The law would be "a welcome part of the armoury" used by police to protect children, he said.

"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," said Sir Hugh.

More than 60 children were protected from abuse during trials of the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme which started in 2008 in Cambridgeshire, Cleveland, Hampshire and Warwickshire, said the Home Office. 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.

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