The image of this poor girl still haunts me.  I have to force myself to read about victims like Sarah because it’s important I remain informed, however painful.  My pain at reading about abuse victims is nothing compared to that of the pain that Sarah’s mother, and parents like her, have to live with every day.

So when I read that Sarah’s Law (the UK’s equivalent to America’s Megan’s Law) was being piloted in four police force areas, I had mixed feelings. I knew it was a good thing. I don’t believe paeodophiles have any right to anonymity and that anything that can be done to reduce the revolting crimes they perpetrate, has to be done.

The scheme has been hailed a success and The Home Office say more than 60 children have been protected from abuse in the period that the pilot scheme was introduced. The scheme will now been rolled out to eight other force areas and will be implemented across England and Wales by March 2011. Good news, right?

Let me reiterate – anything that helps protect children can only be a good thing.

But … what happens now?

I had begun to write this blog last week but it threw up so many questions for me, I wasn’t sure I was ready to publish it.  I asked myself, what happens if I begin to suspect someone? What if I’m proved right?  What next? Do I move house? What if I can’t? Do I ever let my kids out to play again? How will I feel knowing where this person lives? What will I do next?

Is it better not to know? No, I don’t think so. It will make us, as parents, more vigilant if nothing else.

But vigilant or vigilante?

I’m not alone in asking these very questions, but the figures released by the Home Office are too powerful to ignore. If children are being saved, we have to take the risk and support Sarah’s Law.

I decided to write about this subject because today’s newspaper contained another horror story about a convicted sex abuser, with over 40 convictions, who has just been released. He was quoted as mocking the government for failing to monitor him on his release from prison. This “man” refers to Sarah’s Law as, “a waste of space.”

If a convict himself can write to a magazine that, “the authorities seemed perfectly happy to allow me to walk out of prison with no idea where I was going. How on earth is that protecting the public?” then I know Sarah’s Law is needed. Regardless of the quandary that leaves the rest of the decent population in.

Does a convicted paeodophile deserve to be left in peace once they’ve served their time? Are they likely to commit again, even if they maintain they want a fresh start? Is it our job or the police’s job to keep tabs on these criminals? Is an abuser ever rehabilitated?

What happens if an innocent person gets wrongly attacked?

You can see now why I debated writing this blog. But they are questions that need to be asked because when Sarah’s Law becomes law in your town, what are you going to do? How are you going to feel?

Prepare yourself, because it’s only a matter of time.

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Published by Kate Sutton

Writer, Mother, Dater.

6 replies on “Sarah’s Law – The Time has Come”

  1. This, to me, is the “safeguarding” culture gone mad. I can think of so many instances where this law could be abused and cause an innocent person to be harmed. Is it right to “mark” someone as a danger for the rest of their life, because they have previously done something wrong? This is part of a broader trend of “guilty until proven innocent” started under Labour which the Conservatives don’t seem interested in reversing. I see a link here with the James Bulger case, as well. At the risk of sounding harsh, is it right to have bereaved women at the forefront of creating policy? Don’t we need people to cast a dispassionate eye over these things?

  2. Thanks for your comment. You reiterate one of the exact points I make. That of the vigilante and that of the innocents. No one wants to be “marked” do they, whether innocent or not, but are there other solutions? If ‘we’ are too scared to implement a law such as this because of concern over possible vigilante attacks, where does that leave the vulnerable children? What would have happened to the 60 children saved in this first wave of the law?

    Are the Government proposing any other ways to tackle such an emotive and important subject?

    This is why I raised so many ‘what if’ questions. The Law worries me … but it seems to be on its way whatever you or I think so its wise to debate the subject. Perhaps we’ve jumped from the frying pan into the fire? Time will tell …

    As I’ve said before, I certainly won’t be running from addressing issues like this. Some things just need to be said!

    I don’t have all the answers … wish I did! My post today was meant to get people thinking about the possible implications and so I thank you for taking the time to write.

  3. You’re welcome, it’s good to see debate and comment on these issues, very refreshing. I think we jumped from the frying pan into the fire a long time ago, in terms of our culture of parenting. Personally I don’t think you can legislate for every eventuality, though the state would like to, and a lot of parents would like them to as well. All we can do as parents is teach our children to identify and manage risk, and understand their instincts, something that a lot of adults don’t seem able to do. The thing that shocks me most? The fact that stranger abduction figures are tiny, utterly out of proportion to the amount of time that the media and legislature spend on them.
    One last point: I must take issue with the use of this figure of 60 children saved from abuse. It looked a little strange and on a trawl through the web I found this:
    http://www.badscience.net/2010/08/more-than-60-children-saved-from-abuse/
    Ben Goldacre doesn’t usually let me down 😉

  4. I got the figure of 60 from the Guardian (of all places) but I also double checked the Home Office website (I’ll be sure to check our Mr Goldacre next time!) – but I understand the importance to the government of inflating such figures so took it with a small pinch of salt – however, whether it was 21 or 60 – children were saved.

    You’re so right about instincts – as adults, we can ‘sense’ whether someone has a ‘good vibe’ about them or not and we employ this on a day to day basis – it’s crucial we encourage this in our children. The ‘stranger danger’ message is being reinforced at school, even in our youngest’s sports clubs, but the message (like with so many things) needs to begin at home without creating fearful children.

  5. That’s what worries me so much about this whole “risk” culture…you’ve hit the nail on the head. How do you instill a sense of awareness, without making it wari-ness?

  6. I could debate this all day – but Masterchef is on 🙂

    It’s definitely a subject worth revisiting – again and again. Thanks again Vicki – I’ll definitely go and give Ben Goldacre a tweet now!

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