STOP SEX OFFENDERS | UK: Ministers tighten law on sex offenders
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UK: Ministers tighten law on sex offenders.

November 14, 2000

The government says it will act "as quickly as possible" to improve the measures available to police dealing with sex offenders.

Ministers have agreed statutory changes to the measures already put in place by police and probation services, before a review of the Sex Offenders Act is completed by the end of the year.

Deputy Home Secretary Paul Boateng said the changes should act as a memorial to eight-year-old schoolgirl Sarah Payne, who went missing in West Sussex in July and was later found dead.

The move follows a public outcry after Sarah's murder and demands from her family for an open register of paedophiles in line with the so-called 'Megan's law' operating in the US.

"Sarah's law"

Introducing the changes during debate on the Criminal Justice and Court Services Bill, Mr Boateng said they could properly bear the name 'Sarah's law'.

He said: "We believe we should tighten up those requirements of the act that can be done quickly and effectively now."

He said: "I ask the House today to agree to include these new measures in memory of Sarah Payne, whose tragic death moved so many of us across the country."

The amendments strengthen arrangements for risk assessment and management of sexual and violent offenders by making them statutory.

Mr Boateng said they would require:

The relevant agencies to inform the public about the arrangements and provide for the secretary of state to issue guidance about the exercise of the new statutory duty, including the content of information to the public.

A duty to consult and inform victims, where this is their wish, about the release arrangements of the relevant offender.

'Appalling crime'

Conservative MP Nick Hawkins welcomed the amendments, saying: "Everybody was appalled by this crime.

"It is only right that the government should have taken the opportunity to make certain changes in this bill."

Paul Boateng says government will act quickly.

The Liberal Democrats also welcomed the changes, with spokeswoman Jackie Ballard saying the government was "absolutely right" to amend the law.

In the US, Maureen Kanka's seven-year-old daughter Megan was raped, tortured and strangled by a neighbour six years ago in New Jersey.

Following the murder, the US Government introduced 'Megan's law' - which gives parents the right to know where sex offenders live.

Source: BBC News.