Disclosure initiative is rolled out
All parents in Scotland now have a chance to find out if a sex offender has access to their children after a disclosure scheme was extended across the whole country.
Under the "Keeping Children Safe" initiative, parents, carers and guardians of youngsters under 18 can ask the police if a person who has contact with that child has a record for sexual offences against children, or other offences that might put their child at risk.
If it is found the person in question does pose a risk, then information may be given to the parent, carer or guardian as a protective measure. If there is a serious or immediate risk, measures to protect that child will be taken straight away.
The scheme was initially piloted in Tayside in 2009 before being rolled out across Scotland, with the final two forces - Strathclyde and Lothian and Borders - joining it on Thursday. So far, participating forces have received 160 applications and 21 disclosures have been made. A range of actions have been taken to protect youngsters from harm.
Assistant Chief Constable Iain Livingstone, lead for public protection at the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (Acpos), said the scheme provides a "valuable additional route to protect some of the most vulnerable and at-risk in our communities".
He said: "By providing a route for people to apply for information about someone who has access to children and who they might have concerns about, the scheme should be regarded as a key part of our role in protecting children from potential harm.
"There is no stereotype for someone who wishes to cause harm to children. Our experiences across Scotland and beyond demonstrate that individuals from any background or any walk of life can harbour the intent to groom, manipulate and, ultimately, abuse.
"The threats are ever-present. We have also seen an increasing number of cases of online grooming and abuse, in many cases leading to actual physical harm."
Detective Chief Inspector Grahame Clarke of the Strathclyde Police Public Protection Unit said: "The protection of children is one of the highest priorities for Strathclyde Police and anything which helps to safeguard children is welcomed. For the first time 'Keeping Children Safe' allows the public, not just parents or guardians, to formally raise concerns about anyone who has access to children."
The force stressed that anyone who thinks a child is in immediate danger should still dial 999 and alert police.