New child protection scheme launched in Hertfordshire

A NEW scheme, which aims to give the public greater involvement in child protection, has been launched by Hertfordshire Constabulary.

The Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme allows members of the public to report concerns or suspicions involving a child to officers in the County Community Safety Unit, who have 24 hours to make initial checks to see if there is an immediate risk to a child.

The “applicant” who made the initial report is made to sign a confidentiality agreement, and an identity check is also carried out.

The police have 45 days in which to make a response. If there are no concerns police report back to the applicant, but if an issue emerges officers decide who needs to know the details in order to protect the child.

The national initiative is the result of a report published in the wake of the 2002 Soham murders, when two 10-year-old girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, were killed in Cambridgeshire by school caretaker Ian Huntley.

But it is not, police insist, a Sarah’s Law-type scheme that would potentially “out” sex offenders to the general public.

At a press conference held at Hertfordshire Constabulary’s headquarters in WGC on Friday, detective chief inspector Julie Wheatley said it was not “a scheme for snoopers”.

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“Essentially if anyone wishes to make a report in relation to a child, whether they have a concern or not, they can make contact with us under the scheme.

“This is not a scheme for snoopers but a positive response to keeping children safe.”

The intelligence gathered from an investigation then goes on a police database – and in many cases, people who are the subject of an investigation will not be informed.

DCI Wheatley defended the move, saying: “We do that all the time. It’s about managing risk – we’re not Big Brother. “When we get any information we check it out and record it. It doesn’t mean we’re going to do anything with it. It happens every day.”