Group petition for law to stop future Brandon Muir cases

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By Cara Sulieman

A GROUP set up in memory of Brandon Muir are to have their child protection petition heard before a committee of the Scottish Parliament.

Calling on the government to set up a Safe Guardian scheme, they hope that children who are suffering from suspected abuse can stay with a safe family member while social services investigate.

RealJustice4Brandon claim that Brandon’s life might have been saved if he had been able to stay with his grandparents instead of returning to his mother’s house.

The tragic tot from Dundee died from a ruptured intestine just hours after his mother’s boyfriend, Robert Cunningham, assaulted him.

Allan Petrie from the campaign group hopes that the petition – which will be heard by the Public Petitions Committee on December 1 – will bring in a law to help protect Scotland’s children.

“Wake up call”

And he hopes that the politicians will take the opportunity to improve child protection in Scotland.

He said: “Every time there is a child killed at the hands of their parent or someone with responsibility over them – who are usually under the influence of illegal drugs – we hear from politicians that it is a wake up call but then they seem to hit the snooze button till the next time.

“We have produced proposals that we think will not only help save lives and stop children from being abused but also break the cycle of drug addiction in this country by removing children from a drugs environment, which they are being introduced to as normal way of life, whilst keeping them within the family network.”

The Safe Guardian proposal the group have put forward involves placing the child with family members who live in another house and who has undergone police background checks.

Allan believes that it is the best way to ensure that the child is kept safe with the least disruption to their life as possible.

“Less traumatic”

He said: “We believe that keeping the child within the family network is important for the child.

“It would be less traumatic for the child to go and live with a family member and, where there is an investigation into alleged abuse, the child would be in a safe zone.

“If the allegations were false then there would be less of a stigma for the child in returning home as they have only been spending time with a relative – something which is normal in many families.”

With 380 signatures on the petition, Allan is hoping that it has enough clout to persuade the MSPs on the committee to look further into the issue and lead to it being debated in the parliament.

He said: “We hope that with the support that has been shown for our proposals the Petitions Committee will support the Safe Guardian Law’s inclusion for debate within the Scottish Parliament.

“These proposals would be inexpensive to implement and ease the extreme pressure on the social services and foster care system allowing them to pick up the children who have no extended family to act as safe guardian.”

“Rethink care system”

As well as the Safe Guardian Law, the petition proposes a number of steps that local authorities could take to help mothers who are addicted to drugs.

It suggests that mothers who are known to be users of drugs be monitored and helped to kick their addiction. If they are still using when they give birth, then the baby would be placed with a “safe guardian” until she has overcome her addiction.

Barnardo’s Scotland said that they had been campaigning for the government to “rethink” the way the care system works.

SallyAnn Kelly head of children’s operations said: “We need to have a straightforward and coherent system which supports children at risk

“This will require political dialogue at UK, Scottish and local level to agree a route forward. I strongly support the strengthening of the systems that are in place to protect children.

“This can only be achieved by the public, politicians and professionals supporting each other to highlight theses issues in this very complex and difficult area.”

Robert Cunningham was found guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to ten years in prison in March.

Brandon’s mother, Heather Boyd, was cleared of all involvement in his death.

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