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BBC Scotland's Isabel Fraser reports
"Children's charities are welcoming the initiative"
 real 56k

Ann Stafford of Children First
"It is important to err on the side of protecting children"
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Human rights lawyer Philip Rodney
"It seems to me that there are adequate protections built in"
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Monday, 4 June, 2001, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
'Unsuitable adults' register proposed
Children in a playground
The index was called for after the Dunblane shootings
A new register of adults who could pose a threat to children will be set up in Scotland by the end of next year.

Employers and voluntary groups will put forward the names of people they suspect could endanger youngsters.

The move has been welcomed by children's groups - but civil rights lawyers want clear safeguards to make sure the information used is more than malicious rumour or gossip.

We welcome the government's decision to go ahead with setting up this index

Ann Stafford, Children First
Education Minister Jack McConnell described the proposals as "a vital step forward in creating a safer future for Scottish children".

He said: "The index will help to close the loophole which allows some unsuitable adults to pose a risk to children through the respect gained in a work environment.

"This may be connected to sexual matters, but it may also include neglect, carelessness or abuse through bad temper.

"I want it to be a safeguard and also a deterrent.

"The plans mean that individuals listed on the index, or those convicted of serious offences against children, will be committing a criminal offence if they work with children or apply to work with them."

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell announced the proposals
Anyone on the index who applies for or obtains such a job will face up to five years in jail - the same as the maximum penalty for anyone who knowingly employs someone on the list.

The index will catalogue people who have been dismissed from their jobs or voluntary work for reasons which suggest they may pose a risk to children, even though they have no criminal convictions.

Employers must consult the index when they consider offering someone a job in a position working with children.

The Scottish Executive says evidence will be gathered before a decision is made, and that people will be able to appeal to a sheriff against their listing.

Ann Stafford, head policy officer with Children First, said: "We welcome the government's decision to go ahead with setting up this index.

Human rights

"It is important to collect this non-conviction type of information and pull it together in a central point to be assessed as to whether people should be deemed to be unsuitable to work with children."

She acknowledged that there was a human rights issue.

But she added: "When it comes down to the rights of adults to work with children where there are concerns about that adult and the safety of children, I think it is important to err on the side of protecting children."

Glasgow human rights lawyer Philip Rodney said: "One starts from the approach that the interests of children are fundamental.

While the headline seems to be a dramatic one, it seems to me that there are protections

Philip Rodney, human rights lawyer
"But on the other hand maybe there is a perception that maybe this is the thin end of the wedge - putting people on a register before they have been convicted or where they have not been convicted of an offence.

"What the law has to address is the tension between the two."

However, having examined the outline proposals, he said there seemed to be adequate safeguards in place.

"While the headline seems to be a dramatic one, it seems to me that there are protections," he said.

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See also:

27 Oct 00 | Scotland
'Unsuitable adults' ban examined
07 Jul 00 | Scotland
Prison threat to 'unsuitable' adults
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