By Oliver Farrimond and Cara Sulieman
SCOTLAND has seen 53 cases of child abduction in the last year, according to figures released today.
Although the term abduction can cover a range of crimes, the cases include a 14-year-old schoolgirl who was forced into a car and sexually abused before being released by her captor.
Strathclyde Police had the largest number of cases in the last year, with 33 children being held against their will.
Politicians have vowed to do all they can to improve the system, saying that any case of abduction is “extremely traumatic” for the families involved.
But police force’s are keen to point out that the term ‘abduction’ can cover a range of situations and doesn’t necessarily mean the child has been kidnapped and taken away.
Central Scotland Police had three cases of child abduction in the past year, two of which included sexual assault.
The first saw a 14-year-old girl being held against her will and sexually assaulted by an 18-year-old man in Alva in January.
He has since appeared in court in connection with the incident.
In another incident, a 14-year-old schoolgirl was forced into a man’s car before being driven away and sexually assaulted.
She was then dumped at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. This case is still under investigation.
Of the cases across Scotland, most happened in the Strathclyde Police force area.
Although no children are still missing, two of the force’s cases are still under investigation.
Twenty-three of the cases have resulted in a report being submitted to the Procurator Fiscal and eight have been closed with no suspects.
In Fife, there were eight recorded child abductions and Grampian Police had four cases recorded with just one still under investigation.
Lothian and Borders Police reported two cases in the past year.
Tayside Police had three cases of child abduction in Arbroath, Perth and Dundee. Five children were involved in the three cases and were aged one, three, four, 11 and 14.
As well as kids who are taken away form their families, abduction can include a range of situations, as Detective Inspector John Weir from Strathclyde Police Public Protection Unit explains.
He said: “According to the Scottish Crime Reporting Standards, where someone perceives that a child has been detained against their will, the crime may be recorded as ‘abduction’.
“The term ‘abduction’ often creates the impression that a kidnap has occurred when in actual fact this could refer to for example, where a parent has over-run their access time with their child or where a child has been detained by a member of the public for a crime until the arrival of the police.
“It can also include a child being temporarily stopped by another child to allow a further offence like stealing a mobile phone or money.
“Regardless of the level of the incident, police will investigate all reports of this nature and will work with relevant partners, including parents, to ensure the wellbeing of children.”
Despite these reassurances, politicians are calling for more to be done to locate children as quickly as possible after they have disappeared.
Liberal Democrat Justice spokesman Robert Brown MSP is hopeful that an Amber Alert system – similar to the one used in America – can be brought in.
He said: “These figures show that 53 children and their families have suffered through an extremely traumatic experience.
“People who abduct children should know that thanks to the introduction of the child alert system, the entire European community will be working together to find the missing child.
“Liberal Democrats led a debate in the Scottish Parliament calling for the introduction of an Amber Alert system.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Child abduction cases will fall into a range of categories but we support the police in their efforts to deal with such incidences in ways that best protect the interests of the child involved.”