Previous Section Index Home Page

25 Nov 2008 : Column 235WH—continued

25 Nov 2008 : Column 236WH

We have introduced dedicated child abuse investigation units into all police forces, and rolled out specialist sexual offence officers and rape prosecutors in every area, which is a sensible step. We have also introduced special measures to help children give evidence in court proceedings. Nevertheless, there are cases when, rather than putting a child through court, the CPS is legally able to make a judgment on a better way of achieving the end that we seek—prosecution—without having to put a vulnerable child through the difficult process of a court action. It is right that the CPS can take such decisions locally, based on the detailed knowledge that it has gathered. Speaking as a mother—heaven forbid that it would ever happen to any of my children—the judgment is difficult. One wants the prosecution, but if it can be done in any way that does not expose the child to further harm, that should be considered. We should not rule out the opportunity for the CPS to make that decision, if there are concerns about particular cases.

In June 2007, we published the review of the protection of children from sex offenders following a comprehensive review of the arrangements for managing sex offenders and assessment of what more can be done to help to protect children from sex offenders. The review set out a range of actions to improve the management of sex offenders in the community. As a result, we have placed a duty on all MAPPA-responsible authorities to consider, in every case, whether information on a child sex offender’s convictions should be disclosed to a member of the public to prevent a risk of serious harm to a child. I hope that our pilots will give some comfort to the hon. Gentleman, if not in the particular case that he raised, that we have a well-planned way of ensuring that disclosure is further improved for parents and those caring for children when they are not aware of contact with paedophiles in the early stages.

Overall, we are proud of our achievements. We do things differently from other European countries and other countries around the world. We do not rest on our laurels, and every case in which agencies are involved rightly requires that we examine what has happened and that we review, check and ensure that everything was done that could be done. I hope that the review in the hon. Gentleman’s area will give him some comfort that the matter is being taken seriously, and that if there are lessons to be learned, they will not only be learned about local practice, but will be rolled out so that any issues that should be taken up nationally will be.

I am not into buck-passing, because I speak as a Minister and I take responsibility for that, but it may be appropriate for other Ministers to have contact with the hon. Gentleman on some of the issues around the case. I pledge today to ensure that if he has any concerns or queries about the case and contacts me in the first instance, I will ensure that he receives a proper response from the relevant Minister on the particular points that he wants to raise. I hope that that, with the review, will give him some comfort and assurance that the Government take the matter seriously. We will do our best to ensure that we learn any lessons from the case.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at one minute to Two o’clock.

    Index Home Page