Justice Minister David Ford has today introduced new child protection disclosure arrangements.
The arrangements will make it easier to check with the police if a person, who might be posing a risk to children, has a criminal record for sexual or violent offences. The new provisions, contained in the 2015 Justice Act, have been added to existing methods of disclosing conviction information under the public protection arrangements (PPANI).
David Ford said: “I have today published revised guidance on the public protection arrangements. This will allow members of the public to apply for disclosure of conviction information regarding a person with access to a particular child or children.
“It has always been the case that people could, and should, bring concerns to the police about the safety of a child. These new provisions make it easier, allowing any member of the public to come to a police station and apply for information about a person who they believe is a risk to children.
“Information about criminal convictions will only be provided to the person with primary care responsibility for the specific child and only if it is necessary to protect that child. It is, however, important to note that if there is an immediate risk of harm to a child, this will be addressed through current child protection procedures.”
Detective Chief Superintendent George Clarke, head of the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch, added: “As the Police Service of Northern Ireland, we are committed to keeping children safe.
“This scheme, which is in addition to the arrangements already in place, will afford members of the public with genuine concerns about the safety of a child or children the opportunity to raise those concerns with us. We will then follow this up and where appropriate, share information which will help safeguard children and protect them from any risk or harm.
“However, anyone with concerns that a child or children are at immediate risk of harm should contact police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.”
Information may be given in relation to individuals with convictions for sex offences and for relevant violent offences.
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.