14/08/2014 16:56 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Sarah's Law Unmasks More Than 700 Paedophiles

Press Association

More than 700 sex offenders have been unmasked using powers under Sarah's Law since it was rolled out nationwide in April 2011.

New figures - released by police forces in England, Wales and Scotland under the Freedom of Information Act - show on average about five child sex offenders have been revealed every week since the scheme was launched.

The Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme, known as Sarah's Law, was brought in following a campaign by Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter Sarah was murdered by convicted paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000.

She welcomed the news, saying: "Unmasking 700 paedophiles is fantastic. There are now fewer children in potential danger. There's still a lot to do.

"Police must do more to encourage local communities to talk to them. Sarah's Law is a fantastic child protection tool and these figures show that."

Avon and Somerset Police uncovered the most paedophiles, with 42 separate individuals being identified, followed closely by Devon and Cornwall Police which disclosed 39 offenders.

The figures also show police forces received 4,754 applications from parents and guardians wanting to know whether people who have contact with children pose a risk - meaning just one in seven result in a disclosure.

However, applications have fallen since the scheme was launched, from 1,944 in 2011/2012 to 1,106 so far in 2013/2014, while disclosures have also declined from 281 in the first year to 122 in current year to April.

Charities and campaigners have expressed concern that only one in seven applications result in a disclosure and raised questions over how well the scheme is being publicised in the face of waning numbers of applications.

But other groups said the figures highlighted a 'worrying shift of responsibility' away from the state and onto ordinary members of the public in dealing with sex offenders.

Sarah's Law is a watered-down version of laws in the US under which details of where convicted paedophiles live are actively publicised.

Under the Home Office scheme, parents can ask police about anyone with access to their children and officers will reveal details confidentially if they think it is in the child's interests.