16 August 2012
A new disclosure scheme which gives people the right to check the background of an individual who has contact with children will come into force in Jersey from 1 January 2013 after being agreed by the Children’s Policy Group.
When it is launched in Jersey, the Child Sex Offences Disclosure Scheme (CSODS) (known informally as Sarah’s Law in the UK), which does not have to be debated by the States Assembly and has operated in the UK for nearly 4 years, will be focused on disclosure and risk management where the subject is identified as being convicted of child sex offences. It is anticipated that requests for information in the Island will be administered and processed by the States of Jersey Police. Last year in the UK, roughly 1,600 requests for information about individuals were made across police forces, and 160 disclosures were granted.
The Children’s Policy Group in Jersey (CPG) is made up of the Ministers for Health and Social Services, Education and Home Affairs, to provide a forum where issues relating to children and their welfare in the Island can be discussed at a cross-departmental level.
Speaking about the introduction of the scheme, Home Affairs Minister Ian Le Marquand said "The main aim of the CSODS is to provide parents, guardians and carers with information that will enable them to better safeguard their children’s safety and welfare.
"Under the scheme which now operates in the UK, anyone can request that an individual who has access to a child or children is checked for a record of child sexual offences. If the individual is found to have convictions for sexual offences against a child or children, and poses a risk of causing serious harm to the child or children concerned, then this information may be disclosed to the person best placed to protect the child or children. This is usually the parent, carer or guardian; not necessarily the person who made the application.
"We have studied the scheme since it was launched as a pilot scheme in the UK 4 years ago, and the view of the CPG is that the introduction of the scheme seems to have had a positive impact is respect of child protection and perhaps most importantly, empowered parents, guardians and carers to seek a proactive disclosure, where there may be concerns about a third party in respect of safeguarding children.”
The scheme introduces a principle of '2 way' disclosure in that it invites people to ask about the history of a person who has some form of contact or connection to a child or children, and enhances the previous arrangements whereby disclosure occurred largely in a reactive way when agencies came into contact with information about an offender having contact with a child. It also allows individual members of the public to seek information proactively, with an expectation that the agencies responsible for safeguarding children will check to see whether relevant information exists and if it does, that consideration will be given to its disclosure where necessary to protect the child.
Other benefits are that the disclosure scheme encourages individuals to take responsibility for safety of their children and provides a way of getting more information on registered sex offenders (and other individuals who pose a risk to children) who are in contact with children.
Senator Le Marquand added "As with the UK, any disclosure needs to be lawful and consequently must accord with the Human Rights (Jersey) Law 2000, the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2005 and of course JMAPPA (Jersey Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements) arrangements as introduced by the Sex Offenders (Jersey) Law 2010.
"It is important to all involved in delivering this scheme that children are protected from harm. By making a request for disclosure, a person will often also be registering their concerns about possible risks to the safety of a child or children. For that reason, it is essential to this process that the States of Jersey Police work closely with departments such as Health and Social Services and the Jersey Child Protection Committee to ensure that any possible risks of harm to the child or children are fully assessed and managed.”