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14 October 2016, 07:11
A leading children's charity has warned that the "killer clown'' craze must be stamped out as terrified youngsters turn to its helpline.
In just one week, Childline received 120 calls from children scared by the fad of people dressing up as creepy clowns to frighten passers-by.
Nearly one-fifth of the calls were from Scotland, and the charity has issued a warning about the "deeply worrying'' trend.
The charity's base in Glasgow carried out 12 counselling sessions with worried youngsters, while the Aberdeen office handled 10.
A quarter of the calls to Childline about clowns came from children aged under 11, while more than a third came from terrified youngsters between 12 and 15.
The craze, which began in the US, has seen clowns chasing children with weapons such as knives or baseball bats, and in some cases schools were specifically targeted.
Police reports include a clown chasing school children in Dunbar, East Lothian, and stopping traffic by jumping on the road.
Elsewhere, a clown jumped out of a bush carrying a hammer and threatened a 10-year-old boy in Plymouth, and a clown brandishing an axe chased an 11-year-old girl in Workington, Cumbria.
A spokesman for NSPCC Scotland, which runs Childline, said: "People getting dressed up as 'creepy clowns' and frightening children should take a long hard look at themselves.
"Clowns are meant to make children laugh but these people are abusing this idea and turning it into something twisted and warped.
"Increasing reports that these 'clowns' are not simply seeking to frighten children but using them to intimidate, commit crimes, abuse or bully are deeply worrying and this trend needs to be stamped out.
"Young people should stay well away from them. And if they do happen to see a 'creepy clown' out on the streets or lurking near their school, they should immediately tell their parents or the nearest responsible adult and report it to the police where necessary.
"If a child is worried they should call Childline on 0800 1111 or get in touch via childline.org.uk.''