Age of Criminal Responsibility Advisory Group minutes: February 2023

Minutes of the Age of Criminal Responsibility Advisory Group on 21 February 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Clare Haughey MSP, Minister for Children and Young People (Chair)
  • 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
  • Elliot Jackson, Children’s Hearing Scotland
  • Alistair Hogg, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA)
  • Sharon Glasgow, Social Work Scotland
  • Mick Doyle, Scottish Community Development Centre
  • Pam Semple, Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Kenzy Thomson, Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Brendan Rooney, Children’s Care and Justice Bill, Scottish Government
  • Louise Piaskowski, Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Fiona Dyer, Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ)
  • Kenny Donnelly, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)
  • Tracey Green, Police Scotland
  • Fiona Steel, Action for Children
  • Aaron Brown, Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ)
  • Jillian Ingram, COSLA
  • Katy Nisbet, CLAN Childlaw
  • Carol Eden, Victim Support Scotland
  • Val de Souza, National Bairn’s Hoose Governance Group Chair



  • Diane Dobbie, National Youth Justice Advisory Group
  • Marie-Louise Fox, Scottish Legal Aid Board
  • Samantha Faulds, Police Scotland


Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The chair welcomed members of the Advisory Group to the meeting.  Apologies were noted from Diane Dobbie, Marie-Louise Fox, and Samantha Faulds. The chair informed the group of the sad passing of Bella McOuat who was appointed as one of the group's young person representatives.  The chair expressed her condolences to Bella's family, friends and colleagues. 

Minutes and actions from the last meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed. The chair noted that these minutes will be published on the Scottish Government website.

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

  • Carol Eden will now chair the Victim Support Subgroup, with the next meeting scheduled for 16 March 2023
  • Fiona Steel will now chair the Community Confidence Subgroup which will reconvene in spring 2023
  • Aaron Brown provided an update on European engagement questions relating to Barnahus in Sweden

Action:  Dr Aaron Brown to share book chapter from Portugal relating to Barnahus.

Learning Event and review progress

The chair has been delighted to close the February milestone event reflecting on one full year of commencement of the ACR Act. The chair joined part of the event and heard first hand from one of the Child Interview Rights practitioners on their recent experiences and reflections.

Mel Parkinson was invited to provide the Advisory Group with an update on the event and review of the ACR Act.

Mel thanked members who helped organise, facilitate, and attended the ACR Learning Event and for providing honest reflections during discussions and through feedback forms.

They key themes on pre- and post-commencement were:



•Communication and timing are key

•Advanced warning and materials/resources made available earlier to partners/LAs

•More collaborative working between all partners and services involved (e.g., Education)

•Defined roles of those involved in investigative interviews (PS, SW, CHIRPS)

•Language and definitions to be clearer and more consistent (for example, clarity over what harmful behaviour means) 

•Victim support – lack of information for victims and their families, Victim rights to be clear through the legislation

•Public perception and protection/community confidence 

•Training and resources update and made available

•Defined roles and responsibilities of partners

•Consistency of multi-agency working

•Clarity on the role of the independent reviewer

•Information for victims and consider what that means for lower-level harm

•Rights of the child

•Make sure rights of child are being accounted for and that the decisions remain child centred whilst being complaint with the duties in the Act

•Complexity around Investigative Interviews – what this means for partners involved.

A full analysis report from the discussions and feedback will be submitted at the next Advisory Group meeting in June 2023 along with a learning log to track progress of the review.

A year on - What does the data and research tell us?

The chair welcomed Fiona Dyer, chair of the Data and Research Subgroup who provided an update on the data and research.

Updated data report

A paper was submitted from the Data and Research Subgroup in 2022 outlining all detected crimes in Scotland that are alleged to have been committed by children. This includes the reporter’s decision on offence referrals, the charges reported to COPFS and an overall summary of the data on non-court disposals, court proceedings and convictions across all ages and ACR groupings for children aged 12 – 15.

This paper was updated with the most recent year available,  2020-21, and issued to the group in advance of the meeting where Fiona presented the main headlines for each age group up to 18 years.

Social Work data reporting forms

Fiona Dyer invited Aaron Brown to speak to the data paper issued which provides an overview of key findings from ACR data forms submitted to the Children and Young and People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ). The data form was developed to be populated by local authority social work where the legislation had been used (or was considered) in relation to a child under 12 years old engaged in serious harmful behaviour.

CYCJ will continue to collect this data and the report will be updated for the following year. The report will also include details of a DIP sampling exercise to obtain accurate reflections going forward, which will help determine what would be required if the ACR was raised.

Police Scotland data

Police Scotland prepared a report to support the work of the Age of Criminal Responsibility Advisory Group to review the age of criminal responsibility. The report provides data in the following categories: Instances of harm reported to have been caused by children under 12 in the first reporting year following commencement of the Act (17 December 2021 – 16 December 2022 (inclusive) and data recorded in relation to crimes recorded against children by age category as follows:

  • Children aged 12-13 year of age at the time of the incident
  • Children aged 14-15 year of age at the time of the incident
  • Children aged 16-17 year of age at the time of the incident

Action: Police Scotland to update group members of key issues at the next meeting.

Subgroups and group discussion on next steps

Community Confidence

The chair welcomed Fiona Steel to provide an update on the position of the community confidence subgroup. 

The main focus for the group will be to raise the public perception and community confidence around the age of criminal responsibility and of those who fall under the lower-level crimes. The group will look to update their terms of reference and membership to reflect the work going forward at the meeting in springtime. A further update on this will be provided at the next meeting.

It was noted that it may be useful for the group to link in with community planning partnership.

Operational implications

The group last met on 16 February 2023 and discussed the ongoing operational issues which the update report prepared for this meeting outlines in detail, the main issues that this group are considering include:

  • Police investigative interview process what we have learned from the experience so far including consideration of skills, knowledge, and training.
  • The power to take a child to a place of safety and the 24-hour limit
  • Harmful behaviour by a child from out-with Scotland
  • Resource implications of an increase in the ACR
  • The system response to seriously harmful behaviour, what capabilities, if any, need to be put in place to enable the children’s hearings system to respond effectively to seriously harmful behaviour.

It was noted that a report will be drafted and submitted to this group with a focus on the operational implications of increasing the age of criminal responsibility. The chair of the operational implications group will discuss this further at the next Advisory Group meeting.

It was highlighted to group members that representatives from both the Data and Research Subgroup and the Operational Implications subgroup will take part in a dip sampling exercise which will help understand the actions and outcomes of those involved in the most serious offending.

Action: An update will be provided at the next Advisory Group meeting of the progress of the dip sampling exercise.

Victim support

The Victim support subgroup has not met since 22 September 2022 due to changes in chair of this group. The next meeting is scheduled for 16 March 2023 at which group members will discuss and agree the workplan and next steps.

The chair noted that the data and research that has been presented today will support and influence the work of this group.

SCRA identified that there is a victim information manager that may be helpful to be included on the membership of this group.

Action: SCRA to send secretariat the contact details of the victim information manager.

Action: The chair asked members to consider the issues and topics highlighted by the subgroup chairs and if there are any gaps identified, to contact the chairs or the secretariat to this group.

Any other business 

Children’s Care & Justice bill 

It was highlighted to group members that the call for evidence will start mid to late March 2023 with stage 1 to run to the end of June (until summer recess). Stage 2 will start in the Autumn (September/October).

It was noted that ACR is not within the scope of the bill at this stage, however the bill team would be keen to meet with advisory group members and subgroup chairs to seek their views on some aspects of the bill in more detail particular around victim support, SCRA obligations, movement restrictions etc.

Action: Bill team to consult with Advisory group members to seek their views on relevant topics.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting will take place in June, and it was suggested that this could be an in-person meeting.

The chair thanked members for their attendance at the meeting and closed the meeting.

Action: Secretariat to confirm date and venue of the next meeting.



February 2023





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