Parents slam ban on child arts project

PARENTS have launched a petition in support of a reformed drug addict turned filmmaker who has been banned from working with children.

Garry Fraser, who has turned his life around, said he received a letter from Disclosure Scotland out of the blue, and that the move threatened the progress of his enterprise, which has helped around 30 youngsters in some of Edinburgh’s poorest areas.

He has hit out at the ruling, which he can appeal within 28 days, and the parents of some of the children he has helped have started a petition in support.

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It is understood previous convictions he has surrounding drug use – an issue from which he has never shied away – are the reason the problem has arisen following recent changes to the way checks are carried out.

The 34-year-old, from Muirhouse, who was told about the ruling at the weekend, said: “They are treating me as if I’m a pervert. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet or anything but there are kids in Muirhouse who have jobs or are going to college now, and if it hadn’t been for my social enterprise they’d be going straight to jail.”

His Wideo organisation involves teenagers from areas such as Pilton and Muirhouse in filmmaking, acting and poetry.

He wants to use film as a way for youngsters with limited opportunities to express themselves and use their time productively.

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Mr Fraser has worked with Channel 4, the BBC and the YMCA, and has been touted for future success by renowned producer Shane Meadows.

One of the mums who has signed the petition backing him is Leanne Dickson. Her teenage son, Connor, works with Mr Fraser regularly, one of around 40 or 50 he thinks he has helped in the last 18 months.

She said: “I have seen first-hand what Garry is doing for the youth of north Edinburgh. Statistics show media, drama, music and poetry helps them, so why stop the only people who have lived it, pulled their lives back and put what they can into the community?”

Mr Fraser is also involved with the Scottish Government’s No Knives Better Lives campaign.

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He said: “I don’t know what’s going to happen now. I’ve never hidden away from anything I’ve done, so I don’t really know why there’s a new problem.” YMCA chief executive Peter Crory is also backing him.

Mr Fraser had previously passed disclosure checks but, with Wideo’s higher profile, a protecting vulnerable groups check was carried out, which flagged his drug convictions.

A spokesman for Disclosure Scotland said: “Disclosure Scotland will follow a structured decision-making process which ensures that all the risk factors are identified and assessed appropriately and consistently.”