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Scotland's first National Missing Persons Strategy under discussion at Abertay

24 November 2015

A consultation on the Scottish Government’s first National Missing Persons Strategy will be held at Abertay University today (Tuesday 24 November).

Designed to reduce the harm related to people who go missing in Scotland, the new strategy will provide a framework for how agencies can work together to achieve more positive outcomes.

In Scotland, over 30,000 missing persons incidents are reported to the police every year – 2000 in Tayside alone.

The strategy aims to raise awareness of these missing persons incidents and proposes preventative action, as well as the need for stronger protection and support to be put in place.

The contents of the draft strategy will be discussed at today’s event to ensure that the views of all those who work on missing persons cases are taken into account as the strategy is developed.

Dr Penny Woolnough – Lecturer in Psychology at Abertay University and a member of the Scottish Government Missing Persons Working Group, which has led the drafting of the new strategy – explains:

“Missing persons is a complicated, wide-ranging issue and the number of organisations involved – both local and national – is extensive.

“The reasons people go missing are numerous, but many are in distress, suffering from mental ill health, or at risk of sexual exploitation. Children and young people account for about two-thirds of incidents and many repeatedly go missing.

“Although most return or are found within 48 hours, this is not always the case and the purpose of this new strategy is to reduce the harm related to people going missing and to increase the number of happy outcomes.

“Working in partnership is critical if we are to achieve this, so consulting at events like this with those who will be taking the preventative action proposed, as well as those who search for and support those who go missing, is vital.”

Superintendent Graeme Murdoch, the Police Scotland Tayside Lead Officer for Missing Persons, said:

“Safeguarding vulnerable members of our society is an absolute priority for Police Scotland and our partner agencies within the Tayside area.

“The impact on families and communities when people go missing is immeasurable and it is right that the Police have a key role to play.

“The issue of people who go missing, however, is far too important, impactive and vast for Police Scotland to tackle alone and we therefore welcome the proposed strategy and today’s event which has allowed partners to come together and exchange ideas and views.

“In the coming months we will continue to review and improve the response and support that we provide around the issue of people being reported missing in Tayside.”

The Scottish Government’s consultation has been open since 27 August 2015 and will close on 7 December 2015. Similar events have been taking place around the country.

Those attending today’s event include representatives from Police Scotland, Dundee City and Angus Council, Abertay University, NHS Tayside, Shelter Scotland, Barnardo’s, WRASAC, RNLI and Tayside Mountain Rescue Team.


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972172158 E:

Notes to Editors:

Abertay University is leading a programme of research in relation to missing persons in collaboration with Police Scotland and is at the forefront of research and practice developments in this area.

Dr Penny Woolnough is a Registered Forensic Psychologist and an expert in the behaviour of missing people, having worked in this area for the past 15 years.

As well as conducting research on missing persons, she acts as an expert advisor to the police and has provided operational support to over 100 high risk missing person cases.

She also delivers training to senior detectives via the Scottish Police College.

She is the only academic to sit on the Police Scotland Strategic Missing Persons Group and is the only academic who provides behavioural profiling for police-led missing person cases in the UK and overseas.

Her work is used internationally by Interpol, the Australian Federal Police and police agencies in the US.

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