THE detective who led the inquiry into Sarah Payne’s murder has revealed single mothers are the group most vulnerable to predatory paedophiles.
Martyn Underhill, who now lives in Poole, spoke out after Dorset Police disclosed that the majority of applications regarding Sarah’s Law in Dorset were from people who had suspicions about a new partner.
The new information follows the revelation that since the introduction of Sarah’s Law in the county, seven child sex offenders had been discovered to be in regular contact with children in Dorset.
Under the Child Sex Offender Dis-closure Scheme, more than 60 concerned families had also contacted Dorset Police to find out if their child was safe.
Mr Underhill was tasked with liaising with Sara Payne, Sarah’s mother, during the course of the investigation in 2000, which led to the conviction of predatory paedophile Roy Whiting.
Speaking to the Daily Echo about the formation of Sarah’s Law, he said: “Part of the reasons for establishing this disclosure policy was the vulnerable group of mid-20s to mid-40s women looking to find a new partner and being targeted because they had children.
“This is exactly the reason we fought for the disclosure law – for women and ex-partners with concerns to have reassurance and information to deal with potentially dangerous situations.
“Every part of this story is good news for Dorset parents, and Dorset police and their partners.
“Critics said that when Sarah’s Law came in, police would be swamped by thousands of ‘nosey neighbour’ requests.
“Fact – 60 requests over that period of time is totally proportionate to Dorset’s size, population and demographic spread.
“Critics said that there is no evidence that paedophiles target young single mums with children.
“Fact – the majority of the applications related to people who had suspicions about a new partner.
“Sarah's Law was designed to protect this vulnerable group, and it is clearly working. I applaud Dorset Police and their partner agencies for implementing this scheme smoothly, professionally and without any fuss.
“But we can't afford to be complacent, paedophiles will continue to seek new inroads to get access to children, and we must continue to spread the word to all single young mums to check their new partners for the safety of their children.
“These results absolutely made my day. Sarah’s Law has strengthened our ability to profile and monitor sex offenders in Dorset, allowing controlled interventions when appropriate.”
Mr Underhill was also involved in investigating the murders of 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman and is now on the Bournemouth and Poole Local Safeguarding Children Board.
Detective Inspector Joan Carmichael from Dorset Police said: “Dorset is a safe place and this scheme exists in order to make it safer.
“Dorset Police work extremely hard to protect children and families within our communities and this service not only further strengthens our safeguarding procedures, but also empowers parents and guardians to understand how best to protect their children.”