Age of Criminal Responsibility Advisory Group update on implementation – COVID-19: August 2020

Update to the Advisory Group from the Secretariat on Implementation of the ACR Act.

Advisory Group – Subgroups 

At the Advisory Group meeting in January 2020, group members discussed its work priorities and agreed the need to establish work streams on the following four topics: (1) data and research; (2) victims; (3) community confidence; and (4) the operational implications of moving to a higher age. The Group agreed for the four topics to be supported by communications (and engagement), and that consideration of human rights (children’s rights, victims’ rights) will be an integral part of all of the work streams. 

Each work stream will be taken forward by subgroups, each of which will be chaired by members of the Advisory Group. The subgroups and their chairs are as follows: 

  • Data and Research Subgroup – chaired by Fiona Dyer 
  • Victims Subgroup – co-chaired by Mike Findlay and Nicola Fraser 
  • Community Confidence Subgroup – chaired by Paul Carberry 
  • Operational Implications Subgroup – chaired by Anthony McGeehan 

The Advisory Group secretariat is working with the chairs to develop and finalise the Terms of Reference for each of the subgroups. Once finalised, these will be issued to the Advisory Group, at which point you will be asked to let the secretariat know which groups you wish to join. 

Implementation of the Act 

Part 2: Disclosure of convictions and other information of time when person under 

The Minister for Children and Young People approved the proposals to commence Part 2 of the Act on 30 November 2020, and also to bring into force regulations that will set out the procedure for review for the Independent Reviewer on that same date. 

Work continues on the guidance required for implementation with input from a variety of stakeholders. 

Part 4: Police investigatory and other powers 

We continue to work with colleagues across the devolved administrations on the section 104 Order, which will allow cross-border cooperation for Part 4 of the Act. 

We are waiting for feedback from the Scottish Civil Justice Council about our proposal for changes to court rules, which would enable the order-making provisions in Part 4 to work. 

We continue to work with operational partners – in particular Police Scotland, Social Work Scotland, and SCRA – to develop guidance and processes for the use of police powers in the Act. This includes the development of a list of places of safety, guidance for use of the power to take a child under 12 to a place of safety, guidance and process for the investigative interview, and development of the role of child interview rights practitioner. Through discussion with partners, we are developing our understanding on the interaction that key stakeholders will have with Chirps and how this will work in practice, which will be worked into the guidance on investigative interviews. 

The draft guidance on Place of Safety has been revised to take on board comments received by the Programme Board and is now being considered by legal officials. We plan to hold a focused consultation with the Chief Constable, each local authority, and other organisations who raised concerns over the use of a place of safety during the passage of the Bill, and will also seeks the views of children and young people on the types of facilities which should be included in the list. We aim to have a final product agreed by the end of October, giving partners more time to develop internal guidance, processes and training for when the Act is fully commenced. 

Engagement with stakeholders 

We continue to keep close contact with colleagues around different approaches to engagement and thinking about how we can best link in with stakeholders as we cannot hold face-to-face meetings until further notice. 

Meetings such as the ACR Programme Board and Investigative Interview Delivery Group have continued via teleconference, and we will continue to engage with and seek input from stakeholders and partners as implementation continues. 

We are developing an engagement plan to seek input from Children and Young People on Places of Safety. We are working closely with stakeholders to gain their opinion on the best ways of communication with Children and Young People as well as, identifying opportunities that we can participate in to ensure we are engaging as much as possible. 

Other areas of interest 

Children’s Advocacy in the Children’s Hearings System – training for children’s advocacy workers 

Training for children’s advocacy workers started on 4 August 2020. The training ‘Making Advocacy Real in the Modernised Hearings System’ will be mandated within Regulations that will underpin section 122 of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, and must be completed by any person providing children’s advocacy in the Children’s Hearings System, through this Scottish Government funded national scheme. 

The aim and focus of the training is to equip advocacy workers (and their managers) with the knowledge to spot where the law could improve the child or young person’s situation, and is designed to enable advocacy workers to use the law themselves when advocating on behalf of a child or young person. 

The benefits of recognising where the law may be used to help the child or young person are to help the advocacy worker to spot early on where steps can be taken to resolve the situation before it gets complicated or more difficult. 

The format of the training will include overview presentations and case scenarios for discussion on the day. Fictional case studies will be used as a basis for the training so real life application of the law can be discussed. The focus will be on what the child or young person should know before making an informed decision, and where to find that information. 

Independent Care Review 

On 21 May 2020, the Deputy First Minister announced to Parliament the appointment of Fiona Duncan as Chair of the Promise Oversight Board. 

On 16 July 2020, the Deputy First Minister updated Parliament on the progress of The Promise, and announced a £4 million support fund (the Promise Fund) as part of the Scottish Government’s response to the Promise. The Promise Fund will provide start-up funding to enable preventative action and early intervention through putting in place family support. 

The COVID-19 emergency response has impacted upon the Scottish Government’s and key partners' ability to progress implementation of the Promise as quickly as had been originally anticipated. The Scottish Government will work closely with Fiona Duncan to ensure she has everything in place that will be required to deliver “The Plan”, in partnership with the wider sector and as set out as part of the Care Review’s final reports. 

Whilst we have not been able to move as quickly on implementation as we originally aimed to, it remains a key priority and the Scottish Government has been working hard to ensure that the principles of the Care Review’s “Promise” are reflected in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including in practice guidance and policies underpinning emergency legislation. 

Secretariat to the Advisory Group 
18 August 2020.

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