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THE RAGE OF INNOCENCE; Angry parents say don't ban children's pageants.

Parents last night demanded the return of kids' pageants, scrapped because of fears they could attract paedophiles.

They said parades ditched by "politically-correct" councils should be brought back in the name of common sense.

Mums and dads claimed the events were harmless fun and had never been preyed on by perverts.

Generations of schoolgirls have enjoyed their big day at the beauty parade, where the playground meets the catwalk.

Some have used their title as the foundation for a career in modelling but for most it's just fun in the sun, a chance to be queen for a day.

Now all this is under threat - yet the enemy is more imaginary than real.

Experts fear the dangers of parades and pageants attracting child molesters have become over-exaggerated.

And academics say "stranger danger" abuse incidents, where children are assaulted in a public place by someone they don't know, are actually few and far between.

But that didn't stop Dundee Council announcing this week that the city's Princess and Queen contests for girls and the Mr Muscles competition for boys have been scrapped.

Officials blamed the decision on "equal opportunities and child-protection issues" - but yesterday they admitted there was no suggestion that paedophiles had ever turned up at the annual event, held since the sixties at Dundee's Marryat Hall.

Dundee Tory councillor Neil Powrie said: "This is quite appalling. Nobody, not even the councillors themselves, have been consulted.

"I can't possibly see how it could be dangerous for children to parade in front of their parents and friends.

"Thousands of children have enjoyed this event for over thirty years and now it is being scrapped because of irrational fears about paedophiles.

"We seem to be living in an age when innocence is no longer allowed. We have to focus on the seedy side.

"This really is political correctness taken to an extreme. Why can't children have fun at a beauty pageant? It goes against all common sense."

The mother of Bradley Coyne - the last Mr Muscles - said there was no chance a paedophile could have watched him win.

Susan Coyne, 33, said: "I'm surprised and disappointed about all the fuss. They'll be stopping girls playing netball in skirts next.

"The competitions were very well organised and good fun. Almost every parent was there, along with councillors and council officials and it's the last place a paedophile would turn up.

"Common sense says that these things are just harmless fun and should be brought back."

Eleven-year-old Bradley is disappointed that he won't have the chance to repeat his success. He said: "I have been in training all year planning to defend my title. The competitions were great fun and I made a lot of friends."

Dad Philip, 33, added: "Surely boys can have muscles and girls beauty without politicians getting upset."

Meanwhile, Primary Seven pupil Angela Kerr looks destined to be Dundee's last Teen Queen.

Her dad Graeme, 33, a hospital porter, said: "It's PC gone mad. The competitions were good fun for the parents and the children."

Mum Denise, 32, added: "The children don't know about political correctness and paedophiles. They are trying to make them older than their age."

Angela said: "I would have taken part again this year - but I'm quite pleased I'll be Teen Queen for ever."

Another long-standing parade under threat is held thirty miles up the coast at Montrose.

Angus District Council is considering pulling the plug on the Rose Queen ceremony, which started in 1936.

Every year, a queen is chosen from third-year girls at Montrose Academy to be guest of honour at civic functions.

There have been no complaints of paedophiles plaguing the ceremony - but council culture convenor Ian Angus still says "child protection issues" must be considered.

A Tayside Police spokesman said yesterday said he was aware of "a handful" of incidents of "stranger danger" sex abuse this year.

But when asked about scrapping pageants, he said: "That is really taking it to an extreme.

"No one wants to be complacent when it comes to paedophiles, but it's unfortunate it has come to this."

A senior Tayside officer added: "It beggars belief to suggest that the neighbourhood sex offender is going to turn up at a beauty parade when all the mothers and fathers are there.

"It is understandable that people should be concerned about child abuse, but it's important to keep things in perspective.

"All the research shows the danger to children comes from inside the home rather than outside it."
COPYRIGHT 1998 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Martin, Stephen; McCartney, Brian
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 1, 1998
Words:748
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