Reviewers could face scrutiny if teachers are over-cautious

By Hamish Mackay

A leading Scottish journalist and theatre critic has warned that reviewers could face unwelcome scrutiny in the current growing national unease and concern over the activities of paedophiles.

The warning, from The Scotsman’s chief theatre critic Joyce McMillan – who also writes a political/social commentary column for the paper – came in the wake of the initial decision by Edinburgh City Council to ban parents from filming or photographing their children’s nativity plays without the express written consent of every parent, in case paedophiles got hold of the films or photos and posted them on the internet.

Education chiefs in Falkirk and East Lothian introduced similar restrictions before all three authorities decided to lift the ban after furious opposition from parents.

In Edinburgh, one mother was granted legal aid to lodge an action at the Court of Session opposing the ban.

And Sara Payne, mother of the murdered schoolgirl Sarah Payne, told ITV1’s This Morning that she did not believe family life should be destroyed by fears about the activities of a small number of paedophiles.

The right by local authorities to take such action is made possible by implementing the legislation of the Data Protection and Human Rights Act of 1998, which incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights into Scottish law.

However, McMillan, who is involved in Scottish and European campaigns for democracy and human rights, has drawn attention to the case of one of her colleagues who was on reviewing duty at a daytime pantomime performance in one of Edinburgh’s major theatres.

McMillan pointed out: “My colleague found herself the object of attention from a nervous teacher in charge of a school party.

“‘Call me paranoid,’ said the teacher, plonking herself into the next seat, ‘but I’m just going to sit here and keep an eye on you.'”

The colleague, explained McMillan, “is a middle-aged lady of thoroughly respectable demeanour, and would happily have called the teacher many things worse than ‘paranoid’ if manners had allowed; but I suppose her experience was just another sign of the times, or, at any rate, of the current mood of extreme caution among those officially responsible for the protection of children.”

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