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 Monday, 16 December, 2002, 12:53 GMT
Nativity film ban defended
Nativity play
Nativity plays are special moments for children
Edinburgh's director of education has defended a ban on photographic or video recordings of nativity plays and concerts without the unanimous agreement of all parents.

The measure has been introduced to stop still pictures and films falling into the hands of paedophiles.

The authority has been criticised but Roy Jobson told BBC Scotland there was evidence that paedophiles used such images on the internet.

"It's always easy to say there's been an over-reaction and equally when anything disastrous happens, the first question that is asked is 'did the authority, did the school, do all in its power to protect the children?'

People who offend should not be deciding how we should behave

Ray Wyre
Sexual crime consultant
"So for all those people who say it's an over-reaction, equally there's a case to say we have a duty to protect," he said.

The rule means that the parents of each child involved must give written permission for cameras and video recorders to be allowed into the event. Sports days and prize-givings are also covered.

Ray Wyre, a sexual crime consultant who has worked with offenders at Peterhead and Saughton prisons, said the ban was "a dangerous road" to go down.

He said that up to 80% of sexual abuse went on within families and extended families.

'Step too far'

"By definition, a father may have taken photos of film of a sports day," he said.

Mr Wyre, now based in Milton Keynes, said the council's decision would create "paranoia and fear" among children and parents.

"People who offend should not be deciding how we should behave," Mr Wyre went on.

Edinburgh City Chambers
Edinburgh City Council defended the move
He believed Edinburgh City Council was acting out of fear of being sued over the inappropriate use of material gathered from one of its schools.

Karen Gillon MSP, the Scottish Parliament's education committee convener, said Mrs Gillon said she was concerned about an erosion of children's freedom and innocence.

"I hope we can start from a position of trust and deal with other issues in a reasonable way. I am concerned that this may be one step too far," she went on.

'Special moment'

If parents forgot to complete and return a form to school it could prevent a video being made, the MSP said.

"I think the council will have to look at this to make sure it is the right balance between child safety and child innocence and ensuring that children are free to enjoy themselves without worrying there is someone 'out there' to get them."

She said nativity plays were a special moment in a child's life, one which every parent wished to see them involved in.

Michael Haimes, formerly of Scotland Yard's Obscene Publications Squad, said the council's decision made "no sense".

He said: "This isn't something they would get a kick out of and quite frankly I can't see the benefit of not allowing parents to video their children taking part in nativity plays.

"I think this is maybe a step too far and as a threat assessment the outcome of that assessment is not sensible at all."

'Climate of litigation'

Ronnie Smith, of the EIS teaching union, said he could understand why councils were so concerned.

He said: "There is such a climate of litigation these days that they (councils) do have to act defensively - it's a great pity that it's come to this."

But Steve McCall, of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC), said the move was more to do with the city council's efforts to protect itself than about child protection issues.

See also:

15 Dec 02 | Scotland
28 Nov 02 | England
15 Dec 00 | Education
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