In 2000, Sarah Payne, an 8 year old girl, was abducted and murdered by Roy Whiting who had previously been convicted of abducting and indecently assaulting a young girl.
Following Sarah's death, the News of the World, supported by Sarah's parents, launched a campaign calling for a UK version of what is known as “Megan's Law” in the United States. The proposed "Sarah's Law" would require the police to make information about local sex offenders available to the public.
However, evidence from the United States showed that if an offender's details were automatically made public, a proportion would no longer comply with the notification requirements and could disappear, leaving the authorities unsure of their whereabouts and unable to monitor them (Fitch, 2007). There is also a risk of vigilante attacks from members of the public (Fitch, 2007).
Following a Home Office investigation into the operation of Megan's Law in the US and a review into protecting children from sex offenders (Home Office, 2007), a UK disclosure scheme was developed. To avoid the risks associated with the US system, the UK scheme only disclosed information when a member of the public asked about a specific individual and then only to the carer or parent of the child at risk.
The scheme was piloted in four police areas in in 2008. An independent evaluation of the pilot (Kemshall and Wood, 2010) concluded that the scheme had worked well. In August 2010 the Home Office announced that it would be rolled out across all 43 police areas in England and Wales.