New arrangements were recently put in place in Northern Ireland to help make it easier for anyone who has concerns about someone who might be posing a risk to children to find out if that person has a criminal record for sexual offences or for violent offences which could indicate a risk to children.
The provisions which are contained in the 2015 Justice Act, have been added to existing methods of disclosing conviction information under the public protection arrangements.
Under the new law, a member of the public has the right to apply at a police station for disclosure of relevant conviction information regarding a person with access to a particular child or children.
Any information which is available about relevant criminal convictions will only be provided to the person who has primary care responsibility for the specific child or children. The information will be released only if considered as necessary to protect that child.
The scheme builds on existing processes by the agencies involved in the Public Protection Arrangements for Northern Ireland to manage sexual and violent offenders. Agencies with public protection and child protection roles – police, probation, social services – already disclose information about criminal convictions when it is necessary to protect a child.
This new statutory provision adds to these arrangements by offering a direct route for a member of the public to bring any concerns they may have to the police about someone they know who has access to a child.
Can anyone apply for disclosure under these arrangements?
Yes. But they must be able to identify a specific child and a named individual about whom they have concerns. They will not automatically be the person to whom information is disclosed.
How long will it all take?
It is anticipated that the police will undertake initial checks within 24 hours and complete the process within 28 days. However, if there is an immediate risk of harm to a child, this will be addressed through current child protection protocols and procedures.
You should NOT use this scheme as a way of reporting imminent/current child protection concerns or offending.
How do people apply for information under these arrangements?
The application form is available on the PSNI website at www.psni.police.uk/child-protection-disclosure-arrangements. The form should be completed and brought to the local police station with ID. The police may ask you to remain at the station to answer any clarification questions and sign the declaration regarding disclosure.
What if there is an immediate risk?
If you believe that a child is at immediate risk then you should call 999 in an emergency to report your concerns, the non-emergency number 101, or contact Crimestoppers confidentially on 0800 555111 and/or your local Social Services Gateway Teams (see http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/reporting-child-abuse-and-neglect)