Sex-case law is years away

It could be the end of the decade before new measures are in place to ensure children and vulnerable adults are not at risk from sexual and abusive predators, The TESS understands.

Following the furore south of the border where people who had committed sexual offences were found to be working in schools, Jack McConnell, the First Minister, promised MSPs that the law would be tightened. This had already been the intention since the Bichard inquiry into the Soham murders in Cambridgeshire.

The Executive has already made it clear that it wants to see the Bichard recommendations on the statute book by 2008.

They will be introduced in a draft Bill to be published later this year, but this will be followed by a period of extensive consultation, scrutiny by a parliamentary committee and extended debates by MSPs.

Even if 2008 were an achievable deadline, the schedule could be affected by next year's Scottish elections and the time which will be required to put very complex systems in place.

The centrepiece of the Bill will be a new "central vetting and barring unit" which will determine whether individuals are suitable to work with children or vulnerable adults.

It will also introduce a system of automatic updating of offences committed by individuals and create a category of "personal employer" which would, for example, allow a parent to check on the suitability of private tutors.

It emerged last week that, while there were just 63 people on the list of people disqualified from working with children, more than 2,800 were on the sex offenders' register in Scotland.

Kelly's nightmare 8; Leader 22

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