A HELPLINE has opened for parents worried about children who attended a nursery at the centre of a child-abuse investigation.
Mark MacLennan has appeared at Fort William Sheriff Court after being charged with sexually assaulting youngsters at a Lochaber-based nursery, which cannot be named for legal reasons.
The 28-year-old made no plea and was bailed to an address in the Stirling area.
Officers are continuing with their investigation, and Police Scotland has launched a support helpline for concerned parents, urging them to contact the number.
Detective Chief Inspector Pamela Ross said: “We understand that parents and families may naturally be very concerned about the nature of this investigation.
“We have identified all the parents of children connected to this nursery and either have been, or will be, in touch with them.
“We have also established a number of support mechanisms together with partners, and one of these is a helpline which is run by Children 1st.
“Call-takers at ParentLine Scotland are trained to provide advice and guidance and can refer callers or any relevant information on to police or the appropriate agency to provide further support locally.”
The police investigation is still trying to establish if there are any other alleged victims at the nursery, the name of which cannot be disclosed because it could possibly identify alleged victims and witnesses.
A spokesman for the Scotland-wide force said: “Police have identified the families connected to this particular nursery and will be making contact with them. Anyone with any information regarding this inquiry or any particular concerns can also contact police on 101.”
Parents were told about the investigation in a letter sent last week from nursery management. It warned that officers would be in touch with them regarding a complaint of assault at the nursery.
It is understood the inquiry was sparked by concerns about one child, which led to another alleged victim being identified.
One parent said: “The fact the helpline has been launched seems really unusual, as the police have already spoken to us.
“You think your kids are safe when going to nursery, and everyone hopes that their own kids are not involved in any of the allegations.”
A grandmother of a child who attends the nursery said parents were “really worried”.
She went on: “It is hugely concerning to everyone who has a child there.
“We’ve been trying to find out more from the police, but we feel in the dark about it all.
“We just can’t believe this is happening here. People are just very shocked and angry right now.”
MacLennan appeared in court charged under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009, Section 20 – which covers sexual assaults on children under the age of 13.
Sheriff Raymond McMenamin agreed to MacLennan being granted bail at the request of his solicitor.
• The helpline number is 0800 028 2233. There is also an e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Launched in 1999, ParentLine Scotland receives more than 5,000 calls and e-mails every year. People call for various reasons, including difficult relationships with teenagers, separation and divorce, bullying, family relationships, care concerns and money worries.