What Lord Cullen wrote

18th October 1996 at 01:00
Vetting and supervision:

`I consider it preferable to work towards safeguarding children from the attentions of unsuitable people rather than to create additional criminal offences.

If it is to be left to individual groups to carry out checks, there would be no system for ensuring that the checks were adequate or that the practice was sufficient to protect those who attend their activities.

Further, parents are not always able to make adequate enquiries into how groups are run or their personnel are checked. Parents sometimes have to take much on trust; and it is reasonable that they should be assured that the clubs or groups their children attend have shown that they provide an adequate degree of protection against abuse. The children's safety is paramount.

There is no system for co-ordinating information between different areas about people regarded as potentially unsuitable for work with children.

A system should be instituted to ensure that groups use adequate checks on the suitability of those who have substantial unsupervised access to children.

Voluntary, rather than compulsory, accreditation would be much more flexible and certainly simpler to administer. In determining what is required to be demonstrated in order to obtain accreditation, an accrediting body could adapt its approach according to what was appropriate.

The body would have the responsibility for drawing up or selecting guidelines for recruiting, training and monitoring leaders and workers who have substantial unsupervised access to children with a view to minimising the risk of abuse. It would seek to collect information about best practice.

The body would have discretion to decide whether or not an individual club or group should be accredited.

Checks could include professional qualifications and affiliations, and other checks designed to exclude unsuitable characters.

In the case of organisations with relatively few leaders - such as clubs of the type run by Thomas Hamilton - it could prove difficult for them to demonstrate that an adequate and independent check had been carried out. For such cases it would be advantageous for the body to supervise the carrying-out of the appropriate checks.

It would also be desirable if the body was able to collect accurate information about anything which might reflect on someone's suitability to work with children and young people.

It would be desirable that not only accredited clubs and groups provide such information, but that "non-members" should be encouraged to do so. Great care would, of course, be needed to ensure that information recorded was accurate.

Such a body would also be expected to monitor the conduct of accredited clubs and groups to see whether their performance matched the statement of practice. Where there was a significant failure, accreditation could be removed.

The functions of the organisation and the need for its work to be well-known clearly indicate that a national body is required.

The governing board of the body should reflect the width of all the interests relevant among the voluntary, private or charitable organisations which may seek accreditation, whether their interests lie in the field of recreation, education or general development of children or young persons.

I do not see any reason why the body should not be self-financing through charges on its "members".

The body would not be operating a compulsory system, but would be in effect occupying a monopoly situation. Hence provision should be made for its public accountability.

Training: Consideration should be given to the development by the Scottish Vocational Education Council of a vocational qualification on working with children, which would cover the organisation of clubs and child development and protection.

School security: It is plain that schools vary greatly in regard to their nature, size, layout and age. What would be appropriate for an inner city school of 700 pupils would be unlikely to suit an isolated rural school.

In allocating scarce resources, it is necessary to be clear about objectives and the value of what any changes can achieve.

I am in no doubt that a solution to the problem . . . should be tackled through the application of sound principles of safety management.

It may be of value to consider whether the school should have one or more than one line of defence. Should the first be the boundary which defines the grounds of the school? Turning to the playground, should it be lit in the evenings and in winter? Are there any risks associated with outlying buildings, courtyards or the car park?

Should some subsidiary doors be altered so as to open outwards only? Should there be some form of special entry system? Is surveillance of the entry points required? Each of these methods may involve significant drawbacks, such as presenting a forbidding aspect or creating difficulty for children to understand and use.

Should parents and others be required to give advance notice of their intention to visit? What staff should be on hand to speak to those entering the school? What training should they have for dealing with aggressive visitors? What backup should they have? Should all visitors sign in and out?

Let me suppose a situation in which some untoward incident is imminent or already in progress. The object will be to contain and defuse the situation [and] make sure that staff have immediate support and can call for assistance. The first points to the need for staff to receive regular training in dealing with aggression, acquiring knowledge of security procedures and equipment, and cultivating a sense of safety awareness.

It may be appropriate to consider panic buttons or telephones, especially in outlying buildings. Personal alarms for teachers may be required. Closed circuit television may be of some assistance but ... will need monitoring. Pupils can be encouraged to play their part by being alert to the presence of strangers and aware of security and evacuation procedures.'

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