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Labour fights to protect children from paedophiles

Hull North MP Diana Johnson today (Tuesday 11 October) leads Labour’s fight to keep the automatic ban on those convicted of serious offences from working with children.

The barring regime was introduced in the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 to implement the recommendations of the Bichard Inquiry into the Soham murders of 2002. It covers a wide range of people working with children or vulnerable adults and established a framework for employers and voluntary groups to use in checking the suitability of employees and volunteers.

The Coalition Government is now trying to scale back this barring system with provisions being debated in the House of Commons today in the ‘Protection of Freedoms Bill’.

Under the Government’s plans, someone convicted of a serious offence against a child will only be placed on the barring list if the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) has reason to believe that they are, have been, or might in future work in a ‘regulated activity’ involving contact with children.

On Tuesday, Labour will attempt to amend the Government’s ‘Protection of Freedoms Bill’ to ensure that those convicted of serious offences will still be barred automatically from working with children.

Labour’s position is supported by child welfare groups, such as Fair Play for Children who conducted an online survey that found that 96.6% of respondents felt that adults convicted of offences against children should be placed on the barring list as soon as they are convicted.

Shadow Home Office Minister and Hull North MP Diana Johnson said: “None of us likes unnecessary bureaucracy and Labour backs some Government changes, such as portable Criminal Records Bureau checks.

“Where Labour cannot support the Government is in their drive for an arbitrary cut in the number of those barred from working with children. We believe that this would create opportunities for dangerous, determined and manipulative individuals to gain access to children or vulnerable adults.

“Barring procedures were introduced to implement the recommendations of the Bichard Inquiry into the Soham murders of 2002.

“The Government also wants to reduce the number of activities that will be covered by its new barring scheme. People who volunteer, for example as a football coach, will not, as long as they are supervised, in future be covered by the new scheme. They could gain access to children.

“Labour believes that society should protect children from those who would harm them.”