Key section dropped on information sharing

MINISTERS HAVE bowed to concerns over their controversial Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Bill and dropped one of its key sections. This would have placed a legal duty on public agencies to share information about people working with children and vulnerable adults who may pose a danger to them. The proposal stemmed from recommendations in the Bichard report, following the 2002 Soham murders.

The Scottish Executive now plans to set out a code of conduct on sharing information, without it being a legal requirement.

Robert Brown, the Deputy Education Minister, hopes that information could still be shared in Scotland without a legal requirement and that MSPs after the election will add the measure to planned legislation reforming the children's hearing system.

Critics of the bill have claimed the vetting measures could amount to a bureaucratic nightmare, were disproportionate to the risks involved for children and others, and would discourage adults from working with young people.

The executive has not - as reported in some sections of the media - agreed to drop sections of the bill which introduce retrospective checking.

Voluntary organisations have warned that this element of the bill could result in one million people - a quarter of the adult population - being subjected to a policy or background check if their job or voluntary work brings them into contact with children or vulnerable adults. The executive argues the figures are exaggerated.

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