One of the worrying aspects of the Lorraine Stirling case is that, but for the court proceedings, she could have ended up on the register of those deemed unfit to work with children.
People will be put on that register if an employer dismisses them, or if they resign before an employer sacks them, when the employer has reason to believe that they are unfit to work with children. The case against Lorraine Stirling would suggest that an unproven allegation by a child is sufficient for an employer to be persuaded that someone was unsuitable to work with children.
The Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003 is so ill-defined that it is impossible to determine its scope. The result is that more and more authorities are playing safe and requiring that, where there is even a hypothetical chance that an adult might end up in a one-to-one situation with a child, they must be police checked. However, even then the adults are not safe from false accusations and so adults would be extremely unwise to allow themselves to be in a one-to-one situation with a child.
How that improves child protection, I am not sure.
For our part, we have been trying to establish the level of risk from a range of activities and have requested the following information from the Scottish Executive. For the last five years:1) How many actual cases of childabuse injury were there?
2) What percentage of crimes is this?
3) In how many of these were the perpetrators family membersfriends who would not be subject to any legal checks?
4) How many were random acts by people who did not know the child e.g.
Robert Black's activities?
5) How many were perpetrated by youngsters who were themselves under the age of 18 at the time of the event. (At the recent Barnardo's conference it was stated that a third of assaultsabuse cases were carried out by youngsters who were themselves under 18) 6) How many were perpetrated by people in formal positions of care i.e.
police, teachers, social workers, childminders, care workers, out-of-school club supervisors?
7) Is it possible to give figures for the different groups?
8) How many were perpetrated by volunteers helping out at events like school discos?
I have been told this information may not be available. It would seem to me basic information that should have been determined before the policy was developed in order to identify the magnitude of risk.
I have also asked to be told the number of people who are currently on the register of those who are not allowed to work with children; what it is anticipated the number will be for each of the next five years and what safeguards are in place to ensure that there are no cases of mistaken identity given the number of people in Scotland with the same name and same date of birth.
As yet, I have had no response. There are some 1.25 million parents in Scotland and, the way things are going, all of these will have to be police checked before they can participate in school activities.
Judith Gillespie Development manager Scottish Parent Teacher Council