Age of Criminal Responsibility Advisory Group minutes: June 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the advisory group on 5 June 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Tom McNamara, Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Neill Mitchell, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA)
  • Melissa Parkinson, Children’s Right’s, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Lynsey Smith, Includem
  • Wendy Dalgleish, Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB)
  • Alistair Hogg, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA)
  • Sharon Glasgow, Social Work Scotland
  • Pam Semple, Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Kenzy Thomson, Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Louise Piaskowski, Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Dyer, Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ)
  • Fiona Steel, Action for Children
  • Jillian Ingram, COSLA
  • Jillian Gibson, COSLA
  • Katy Nisbet, CLAN Childlaw
  • Carol Eden, Victim Support Scotland
  • Lesley Swanson, Bairn’s Hoose Policy, Scottish Government
  • Nicole Conroy, Child Interview Right’s Practitioner
  • Melissa Rutherford, Child Interview Right’s Practitioner
  • Stephanie Stirling, Police Scotland
  • Megan Farr, Children’s Commissioner
  • Ian Donaldson, Deputy Director, Children's Rights, Protection and Justice
  • Laura Buchan, Crown Office, and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)
  • Rachel Grant, Scottish Courts, and Tribunal Service (SCTS)
  • Lorraine Johnstone, Consultant Clinical and Forensic Psychologist
  • Kirsty Nelson, Children’s Hearing Scotland (CHS)
  • Gary Logan, Young Person Representative
  • Kiera Irvine, Action for Children


  • Elliot Jackson, Children’s Hearing Scotland (CHS)
  • Diane Dobbie, National Youth Justice Advisory Group (NYJAG)
  • Marie-Louise Fox, Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB)
  • Val de Souza, National Bairn’s Hoose Governance Group Chair
  • Lorna Aitken, Education Scotland
  • Tony Bone - Child Interview Right’s Practitioner
  • Mick Doyle, Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC)

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The chair welcomed members of the advisory group to the meeting which was followed by a round of introductions and apologies were noted.

The chair welcomed two new members of the advisory group, Nicole Conroy, and Melissa Rutherford, both of whom are child interview rights practitioners.

Minutes and actions from last meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed and will be published on the Scottish Government website.

The chair invited Mel Parkinson to provide an update on actions from the previous meeting

  • Dr Aaron Brown was asked to share book chapter from Portugal relating to Barnahus - This action was complete - a copy was issued to group members following the last meeting
  • Police Scotland provided an update on the progress of the dip sampling work. They are working with their analysts to take forward this exercise and the timescales for this work are still being confirmed. However, there is hope that there will be progress within the next 6 months
  • SCRA were asked to send secretariat the contact details of the victim information manager. This action is complete - their victim information manager is now a member of the Victim Support Subgroup
  • group members were asked to consider the issues and topics highlighted by the subgroup chairs. If any gaps were identified, they were invited to contact the chairs or the secretariat to this group. This action will be discussed in more detail later in the agenda. The subgroup chairs have prepared questions to consider in the group discussions later in the agenda
  • children’s care and justice bill team to consult with Advisory group members to seek their views on relevant topics. This action is complete. The bill team have been in contact with the relevant subgroup chairs and work is ongoing to link with the bill on relevant areas such as victim support and community confidence

Closure of Programme Board

The chair updated group members that Programme Board met for the last time on 20 April 2023. At the meeting discussions took place on

  • the key themes arising from the learning event
  • notification of a duty solicitor issues and
  • the way forward for the outstanding matters

Programme Board members were content for the group to close on the basis that any outstanding operational issues or proposals are taken forward by the advisory group.

Given the advisory group’s role in reviewing the operation of the Act, the Scottish Government considers that it will be best placed to consider

  • learnings from the ongoing operation of the act, to be explored to the timescales for the advisory group work (e.g., a three-year period)
  • consideration and delivery of longer-term solutions to implementation matters where interim solutions were put in place for 17 December 2021; SG considers that this work may take six months or longer
  • reflection on the lessons learned from delivery of the act with future legislation in mind, noting that that programme board recommended a lessons learned exercise to take place 6-9 months after commencement
  • reflection could then take place to the timescales for the work of the advisory group

Notification of a duty solicitor and right to appeal

The chair outlined that the programme board agreed that this paper should be issued to advisory group for further consideration. 

The paper sets out the process for informing a child of their rights to legal representation when a child is served papers under Part 4, police investigatory powers, of the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019. Namely this process should seek to explain: (1) a child’s entitlement to a duty solicitor, and (2) their right to appeal. In addition, it should seek to ensure legal representation has been secured before a child appears in front of a sheriff.

If the age of criminal responsibility is to raise, there will be options within the paper that will need reviewed.

The Scottish Civil Justice Council (SCJC) have created child friendly forms to provide a child and their family to provide them with more details on the role of the Scottish Legal Aid Board. These are not yet finalised.

The remainder of the paper concentrates on how, if possible, direct contact with a child can be made so as not to be solely relying on the forms. Diagrams are also included in the paper to provide more context on what processes could look like.

The chair asked if group members consider the options detailed in the paper and provide feedback by 19th June 2023.

Action: Group members to provide comments on the options paper by 19 June 2023.

Learning event findings

Mel Parkinson provided an update on the learning event from 26 January 2023 and extended thanks to those who were able to attend.  A report was issued in advance of the meeting which includes the key themes from the day, the policy intentions of the act, how we engaged with each other pre and post commencement and why the act was commenced in phases.

Mel noted that the next meeting in October would be a good opportunity to take stock of the review progress and the actions required to take forward to consider what a future age of criminal responsibility might look like.

Mel asked members for their feedback on the report.  The following points were made by members

  • outlining resources and training required around ACR in general not just around SCIM
  • concerns around the two-tier system added to the learning log around EEI
  • to reflect within the report the collaboration working with social work and resource issues with social work
  • resources available for less serious behaviour
  • places of safety, reflect on the resource implications of places of safety, taking into consideration that a Police Station is not the most appropriate place of safety
  • review period and link in with what the Children’s Care and Justice Bill response to the consultation was regarding raising the age sooner or waiting to conclude the review period

Action: group members were asked to provide any further comments on the report by the end of the week.

Action: review progress to be discussed at the next meeting in October.

The chair invited members of the subgroup chairs to present the work of their respective groups. The chairs proposed three key questions per subgroup to seek advice from advisory group members to help inform the next steps for their groups. Advisory group members broke into four small groups and the chairs joined each group to hear the feedback to their questions.

The table which includes the key questions and finding from the discussions can be found at Annex A.

Any other business 

The chair informed members of the Children’s Care and Justice Bill implementation meeting was taking place in the afternoon of 5 June, following the advisory group meeting, noting some members would be attending the session. The main focus of the session was a workshop in breakout groups looking closely at the challenges and needs for implementation, alongside the potential solutions and opportunities. The Bill team have collated the evidence coming from the committee sessions and calls for views relating to implementation. In the session we would like to explore these in more depth.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting will take place on 31 October 2023.  A meeting invitation will be issued shortly. It was noted that the new Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise, Natalie Don, will chair the next meeting.

  • the chair thanked members for their attendance at the meeting and closed the meeting
  • action: secretariat to issue meeting request for the date and venue of the next meeting
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