From The Mirror-
Mum-of-two tells how she endured nearly two years of legal hell after she exposed the identity of a paedophile living on her street
‘Mum Claire Varin told yesterday of her nightmare after she was hauled into court for outing a paedophile neighbour.
Claire, 37, had legitimately used Sarah’s Law to discover that a man living on her street had been jailed for having films of child abuse on his computer.
But the mum of two daughters aged eight and 12 then faced 18 months of hell when she was accused of telling other families about their neighbour’s sick past.
CHARGED with breaching data protection laws.
THREATENED with eviction from her housing association home.
SUFFERED the breakdown of her marriage to husband Sam, 50.
Claire, the first known person in the UK to be charged over such an offence, told the Sunday People: “Something needs to change.
“What’s the point of Sarah’s Law if you can’t protect people? I was told to keep it to myself but how could I live with myself if something did happen? It’s every parent’s nightmare.”
Claire, who was finally cleared this week after charges were dropped, added: “I had to live with this hanging over my head for months.
“The stress of the court case, the threat of losing the house, the police coming to see us. It’s been awful.”
Sarah’s Law allows parents, carers or guardians to ask police if someone has a conviction for child sex offences.
The legislation was introduced following a campaign by Sara Payne, the mother of eight-year-old Sarah who was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting.
But anyone who receives the information through Sarah’s Law has to sign a non-disclosure form prohibiting them from telling anyone else.
Claire had asked West Yorkshire police about her new neighbour after becoming alarmed by his behaviour when he moved in during the summer of 2017.
The man, in his 30s, introduced himself as “Tom” and told them he was training to be a barrister.
He began chatting to her daughters as the girls picked fruit from a plum tree in their garden.
The next day he called at Claire’s house and asked if their younger girl would like to go berry picking with him.
Claire said: “My husband answered the door and just said, ‘Thanks but no.’ I said to Sam, ‘That’s not right is it?’
“I didn’t like the idea that a man we barely knew was asking to take an eight-year-old girl out.
“The next day he was back with a little tub with five or six berries in it which he said were for my daughter.
“I just thought, ‘There’s something strange about this guy.’”
In November 2017 Claire, a carer, rang the police to ask about using Sarah’s Law to check on his past.
Just after New Year, police told Claire the truth – the man had been convicted six years earlier for having 97 films of child abuse on his laptop.
She said: “They told my husband to go upstairs. Then they told me they could make the disclosure to me under Sarah’s Law because it was in our interests.
“They told me Tom’s real name and he had been sentenced for having indecent images of children as young as two.
“I felt sick. They didn’t tell me he’d been jailed for eight months but I googled him and saw he had.
“Then I had to sign the form saying not to tell anyone. But the officer said to me, ‘I’m not silly. I know you’ll tell your husband.’
“It was a horrifying thing to know. My neighbours all had children. What if something happened? How could you live with yourself?
“Of course I told my children. I told them not to go near that man, that he was naughty.”
A few days after discovering the news, Claire’s furious husband warned some neighbours and confronted the sex offender. Claire said: “The next day the police turned up at our house and gave my husband a warning for making threats.
“The tension in the street was awful. We didn’t let the children play out. Everyone was stressed and angry.”
She complained to the housing association but was told their hands were tied.
Claire said: “We couldn’t understand why he was put in a nice street full of children.
“These people have to live somewhere but there must be more suitable places.”
A few weeks later Claire’s husband confronted the paedo a second time after allegedly spotting him using sign language to her older daughter who is severely deaf. Claire said: “The police came again and gave him a second warning.
“Then we got a letter from the housing association threatening us with eviction because he’d complained to them too.
“It was like everyone was bending over backwards to help him.”
Claire had her own confrontation with the man last summer when she admits she drank too much in her garden.
She said: “I think I shouted, ‘You’re a f***ing paedo. Why did you want to take my daughter out?’ His girlfriend was with him and she was recording it.”
Claire was called in to the local police station, where she was charged with breaching data protection laws. Several months later she received a summons to appear before magistrates.
She pleaded not guilty to knowingly or recklessly disclosing personal data.
She was due to stand trial this week but her solicitor called to say the case had been discontinued as there wasn’t enough evidence against her.
Claire said: “It was a huge relief. I’ve never been in trouble before. I wasn’t going to back down. I just did what any parent would.
“What’s the point of the sex offender register if he’s not punished for approaching an eight-year-old girl.”
Claire said the stress contributed to the break-up of her marriage although she remains good friends with Sam.
She has moved from the street and about a month ago the paedophile also left. The Sunday People cannot name him because of data protection laws. Claire said: “It makes you question how effective Sarah’s Law is.
“It’s meant to be there to protect children, but we can’t share the information.
“By the letter of the law you can’t even tell your own husband or children.
“We can’t be the only ones this has happened to. He has to go somewhere, but we have been through hell.”
A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “A woman charged with breaking the data protection act has had the charges against her dropped.
“Prior to her appearing in court she was offered a conditional caution but this was not accepted, so a criminal charge was the most appropriate option.
‘After new evidence came to light, the Crown Prosecution Service decided along with the police to discontinue the case.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We have significantly strengthened the requirements sex offenders are subject to and a range of new civil orders have given police more powers to manage their behaviour in the community.”’