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EDITIONS
Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 12:58 GMT
Child protection measures passed
Children
Childcare groups will be required to consult the list
A bill creating a blacklist of people unsuitable to work with children has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.

The Protection of Children Bill will establish a register which will include anyone who poses a threat to a child's safety - even if they have not been convicted of a crime.

Minister for young people Cathy Jamieson described the passing of a bill as an "historic step".

Ms Jamieson said the new legislation would close a legal loophole which allowed "unscrupulous people" to work with children.

Boy reading
Schools will have to vet staff

But she warned that the bill was "not a panacea" and insisted everyone had a role to play in protecting children from abuse.

MSPs passed the bill unanimously without needing to go to a vote, showing the wide consensus which existed across the chamber on the provisions.

First Minister Jack McConnell described the new legislation as a debt owed to the people of Dunblane where Thomas Hamilton murdered 16 children and a teacher in 1996.

The new law is the last piece in the jigsaw of legislation arising out of the Cullen Report into the Dunblane shooting.

But already there are doubts over whether the Dunblane gunman would have been caught by the new law.

Alleged inappropriate behaviour

There are also fears the law could be open to legal challenge on the grounds that someone should be proved guilty before they are denied the chance of working with children.

Under existing laws, employers could check the criminal background of anyone working with children.

The new list will also include adults who have been dismissed or suspended from duty for alleged inappropriate behaviour towards children.

The list will be kept by the new agency Disclosure Scotland.

Regulated childcare organisations such as schools, nurseries, childcare agencies and youth clubs will have a legal duty to refer unsuitable adults to the register for inclusion.

Cathy Jamieson
Cathy Jamieson: "Historic step"

They will also have to consult the list before appointing anyone new.

Other employers will be strongly encouraged to refer individuals who are thought to pose a risk.

Critics have said that clear safeguards are needed to ensure that the information used is more than malicious rumour or gossip.

Under the bill, suspects will be allowed to put their side of the story to a panel of three experts before their names are entered on the list.

There will also be the possibility of an appeal to a sheriff.

In England and Wales similar lists have been maintained by the health and education departments for many years.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Kirsten Campbell reports
"The safeguards were recommended after the massacre at Dunblane."
See also:

09 Sep 02 | Scotland
05 Sep 02 | Scotland
04 Jun 01 | Scotland
27 Oct 00 | Scotland
07 Jul 00 | Scotland
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