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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sarah's Law

I am not sure how to react to this pilot of 'Sarah's Law' in three areas around the country except to say that the more I think about it the more misgivings I have.

As I understand it, parents and teachers will be able to access information about sex offenders in their neighbourhoods. Single mothers will be able to ask police about the risk posed by new partners, and headteachers will be told about dangerous offenders in their communities. Except that they won't. Instead they will be told how many sex offenders live in their area but not who they are or where they live.

The outcome it seems to me is that an atmosphere of suspicion and fear will be generated, that in turn could lead to vigilante patrols, indiscriminate attacks on people who are suspected of being the sex offenders referred to and those who are registered going underground and off the police radar, thus making them a greater threat to society. John Coughlan, the joint president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, adds another reservation, namely that the disclosure of police intelligence could generate a false sense of security by focusing attention on known offenders.

I suppose that the whole point of pilots is to flush out these sorts of problems and see if they can be overcome. We will wait and see therefore, but I do not hold out much hope that this initiative will turn out to be any more than a glorified PR exercise.
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