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When a child goes missing

The murder of West Lothian schoolboy Rory Blackhall, like the death of Inverness pupil Danielle Reid in Inverness three years ago, may well have been tragically unpreventable, at least by official action. That is the stark reality, underlined in the conclusions of the independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Danielle's death (Scotland Plus 2-3).

There will undoubtedly be considerable soul-searching in West Lothian. Some may express surprise that the council's policy is to leave it as late as three days before investigating why a pupil has failed to show in class.

But a more immediate response is no guarantee: research from the United States reveals that 74 per cent of children who are abducted are killed within three hours, and 99 per cent within 24 hours.

Schools are geared up to take immediate action where pupils are known to be at risk. Otherwise, they rely on parents and simply note an unexplained absence. The least that can be done now is for these procedures to be tightened up and checks to become swifter.

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