It can be a worrying time when your ex dates again or moves in with a new partner with the children, and it is natural to be suspicious. Whilst you must accept that your ex is moving on and is free to make her own judgments, it is fair to harbour concerns about your children’s safety. But can you do any checks on your ex’s new partner? And if so, how can this be achieved? Here, we find out.
There are predominately two schemes, namely Clare’s Law which became a national scheme in 2014, and Sarah’s Law which came into effect in 2011, which allows the police to check a named individual if they have contact with a child.
What does contact with a child entail?
Contact for these purposes means the person who is the subject of the check has sufficient access to a specific child to pose a real risk of harm. This could be if they:
- Live with the child
- Work in the child’s household
- Talk to the child online or over the phone
- Meet the child unsupervised through access to share common areas, such as gardens or corridors, or via a relationship with the child’s family
What is Sarah’s Law?
This law was developed in consultation with Sara Payne, whose 8 year old daughter, Sarah, was murdered by a convicted paedophile in July 2000. Anyone who wishes to find out if someone in contact with a child has a record of child sexual offences can use the scheme. Although grandparents and neighbours can use the scheme, it is mostly used by parents and guardians.
Sarah’s Law is available across all 43 police forces in the UK, but does not currently apply in Northern Ireland. The police will only disclose information if the person being checked has a record of child sexual offences or other offences that may indicate they pose a risk to the child. Any information will only be disclosed if the police believe it to be lawful, necessary, and proportionate in the interests of protecting the child from harm.
Applications can be made either in person at your local police station, or by calling 101. The police will assess if the person named in the application is a threat to the children based on the information it has in relation to previous child abuse convictions. If a risk of potential harm is identified, the police will give the information to those who are the child’s immediate care providers, such as a parent, carer, or guardian. It is important to be aware that disclosure may not always be given to the original applicant.
The subject of the application will not be notified unless a disclosure of information takes place. In which case, they will be informed that someone is going to receive a disclosure about them.
What is Clare’s Law?
This law takes its name from Clare Wood, who was a victim of domestic abuse and murdered by her former partner. Unbeknown to Clare, her ex had a long history of violence against women and had served three prior prison sentences for abusing multiple women. Clare’s Law is composed of two elements: the right to ask, and the right to know. The first element gives members of the public the right to request information about a potential abuser, whilst the second lets police disclose this information under certain circumstances.
Requests for information on someone can be submitted to the police directly or via 101. The subject’s name will then be checked by a review panel to assess whether information can be disclosed. The police will contact the person making the request to discuss their concerns and decide whether it is appropriate for any additional information to be shared in order to protect the person who is in a relationship with the individual.
Police cannot disclose every aspect of someone’s criminal activity, and the scheme is limited to convictions involving violence. Information about non-violent offences such as fraud, theft, or motoring offences will not be disclosed.
What information do I need when asking for the check?
Within 10 days of asking for the check, the person making the request will need to attend a meeting to:
- Provide evidence of their identity and address; this could be a passport or driving licence, a utility bill or bank statement
- Provide evidence of their relationship to the child, such as their birth certificate or personal child health record (red book).
How long does it take to get a police check done?
It can take up to 28 days for the police to complete a check. If a child is in immediate danger, then the police will act straightaway before the check is finished.
Who will be told about the results of the check?
If the police find any relevant information, they will decide who needs to be told. This may not be you. Generally, it tends to be the people best placed to protect the child, such as the parent the child is living with. If it is safe to do so, the police will tell the person being checked that they are sharing information, which could include telling the person the name of the individual asking for the check. The police will talk to the applicant when making this decision.
Are there any other checks I could do?
It is important to keep in mind that unless you have real knowledge that your ex’s new partner may pose a risk to either them or the children, then you do not have any right to ask for any checks, nor should you. But if you have real concerns, you may consider doing your own checks via what is publicly available. This could range from doing a simple Google search to looking at company records, property data, and credit reports. You might discover from this they have a violent past, a history of bankruptcy, or are on the sex offenders register. Social media can also yield a huge amount of personal data.
Embarking on a background check on your ex’s new partner can create more problems than it solves, and it could ruin the relationship you have with your ex which may, in turn, affect your relationship with your children.
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