A PIECE of legislation can help you find out if you live near a sex offender in Dorset.

Police forces, probation services and other government agencies keep tabs on dangerous criminals living in communities in England and Wales using special management plans known as Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements.

Ministry of Justice figures show 846 registered sex offenders were being managed under MAPPA in the Dorset Police area as of March 2020.

That is a rate of 122 offenders for every 100,000 people, above the average for England and Wales, of 119.

Following the tragic murder of Sarah Payne, Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme was created in a bid to keep children safe and parents informed of any sex offenders.

Here is what you need to know about the law.

What is the Sex Offender’s register and who goes on it?

Dorset Echo: All sex offenders must report themselves to the policeAll sex offenders must report themselves to the police

The sex offenders register contains the details of anyone cautioned, cautioned or released from prison for a sexual offence.

Any convicted sex offenders must register with the police within three days of their conviction, or release from prison and give their name, date of birth, home address and national insurance number. They must do this annually.

But the time placed on the register depends on the severity of the crime. A person who serves a jail term of 30 months to life is subject to an indefinite term of registration while a sentence between six months to 30 months sees the criminal placed on the register for 10 years.

A sentence of under six months requires registration of up to seven years.

Why was Sarah’s Law set up?

Dorset Echo: Sarah Payne was murdered by convicted sex offender Roy Whiting 10 years ago

The scheme was set up after the abduction and murder of Sarah Payne in July 2000.

While visiting her grandparents, she suddenly disappeared from a field where she was playing with her brothers and sister.

Sarah’s body was discovered 17 days later in a field 15 miles away by a farmhand, who reported it to the police.

Roy Whiting, the man who murdered her, was sentenced to life imprisonment in December 2001.

 The trial judge, Mr Justice Richard Curtis, branded Whiting was “an evil man” and “a cunning and glib liar” and sentenced him to a minimum of 40 years imprisonment.

Sarah’s parents, Michael and Sara Payne, worked with the News of the World to launch a campaign calling on law enforcement to adopt the British version of what is known as “Megan’s Law” in the United States.

It would require the police to make information about known local sex offenders available to the public.

The scheme was first piloted in the UK in four police areas in 2008 and is now adopted by most police forces around the country.

What is Sarah’s Law?

The Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme, also known as Sarah’s Law, allows information about people who pose a risk to children can be given to parents and guardians.

This enables parents, guardians and third parties to enquire whether a person who has access to a child, is a registered sex offender, or poses a risk to that child. Consideration will also be given to disclosing information about a person who poses a risk to a vulnerable adult(s).

How to use the law work?

Dorset Echo: Get on-line medical help

Dorset Police say that anyone living in Dorset can make an application for disclosure about someone who has contact with a child(ren).

Under this law, a parent, guardian or third party can make an application to find out if there is information which they need to know about in order to protect a child or children in their care.

The person they are enquiring about must also live in Dorset.

If there is a need to pass information to someone in order to allow them to better protect a child, then the police will disclose to whoever is in a position to use, or need, that information.

Every case will be considered separately, in consultation with partner agencies, disclosure will only be made to those people who are in a position to best protect or safeguard a child.

The scheme is in addition to processes which proactively manage sexual and violent offenders by the Dorset Police Public Protection Unit under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA). Although disclosure already takes place when children are deemed to be at risk, the scheme enables parents, guardians and third parties to apply directly for information themselves.

How to make an application

You can make an application via 101, in person at a Dorset police station or find out a Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme Online Initial Contact Form through this link.

The information you will need to provide initially will be:

  • Your details: name, date of birth, address, telephone number.
  • The details of the individual that you are enquiring about.
  • The details of the children that have contact with the individual.
  • Any specific concerns/suspicion that you have regarding the individual.

What can you do with the information and what happens if you publicly share it?

Any information shared about a sex offender must be kept confidential and not shared with anyone else. The circumstances of disclosing any information are for the safety of children, not to encourage vigilante attacks.

If the information is publicly shared, then the applicant will have committed a crime and legal action may be taken if confidentiality is breached.

A spokesman for Dorset Police said: “Information about disclosure must be treated as confidential. It is only being given so that steps can be taken to protect children.

“Applicants must not share this information with anyone else unless they have spoken to the police, or the person who gave them the information, and the police have agreed that it can be shared.

“In considering disclosure, all relevant persons will be informed.”

What happens if you make a fake application?

Dorset Police say a false declaration to get information is an offence under the Data Protection Act 1998 and is punishable by an unlimited fine at Crown Court.

Anyone providing false information in registering their interest or misusing any information disclosed, for example, by engaging in vigilantism on their own behalf, or on behalf of others, or the harassment of sex offenders, would be subject to police intervention and potential prosecution for any offences identified.