PARENTS will be able to ask if someone with access to their child is a sex offender, under a Home Office scheme being rolled out to Cheshire from October.
But the controversial initiative – a watered-down version of so-called “Sarah’s Law” – has sparked fears it could drive those on the sex offenders' register underground or spark vigilante action.
Cheshire Police is currently waiting on more details about how the scheme will work.
In essence parents can ask police about anyone with access to their children and officers will reveal details confidentially if they think it is in the child’s interests.
Police may also warn parents if concerns are raised by grandparents or neighbours.
The scheme is being rolled out to eight constabularies, including Cheshire, following an initial trial in four force areas and will be expanded across the whole of England and Wales by March 2011.
Pilot studies revealed one in ten calls to police uncovered a hidden past of sex offences or other crimes for someone with access to a child.
The scheme is a watered-down version of laws in the US where details of where convicted paedophiles live are actively publicised.
Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah was killed by convicted paedophile Roy Whiting in July 2000, led a high-profile campaign calling for a British equivalent.
“It’s good that disclosure pilots have helped to protect children. However, the government needs to tread cautiously in rolling out the scheme to more police forces,” said NSPCC spokeswoman Diana Sutton.
“We remain concerned about the risk of vigilante action and sex offenders going underground.”
Latest figures from March 31, 2009 show there were 639 registered sex offenders in Cheshire, Halton and Warrington, 25 more than the previous year.