Age of Criminal Responsibility Advisory Group minutes: June 2022

ACR Advisory Group minutes: 9 June 2022

Attendees and apologies


Tom McNamara, Interim Deputy Director (Chair), Scottish Government, Children’s Rights, Protection & Justice Division (CRPJD)
Clare Haughey, Minister for Children and Young People 
Sharon Glasgow, Social Work Scotland
Lynsey Smith, Includem
Kenny Donnelly, Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service 
Fiona Dyer, Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice 
Alistair Hogg, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration 
Sarah McGarrol, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration 
Neill Mitchell, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration
Jillian Ingram, COSLA
Jillian Gibson, COSLA
Mick Doyle, Scottish Community Development Centre
Elliot Jackson, Children’s Hearing Scotland     
Danielle Sarr,South Lanarkshire Council, National Youth Justice Advisory Group 
Steven Tidy, Victim Support Scotland 
Debbie Storm, Victim Support Scotland 
Lynne McMinn, Disclosure Scotland 
Katy Nisbet, Clan ChildLaw
ACC Bex Smith, Police Scotland 
Sam Faulds, Police Scotland 
Marie-Louise Fox, Scottish Legal Aid Board 
Brendan Rooney, Scottish Government, Children’s Care & Justice Bill lead

Secretariat / supporting officials

Lucy Smith, Scottish Government, CRPJD
Lisa Hay, Scottish Government, CRPJD
Mel Parkinson, Scottish Government, CRPJD
Kenzy Thomson, Scottish Government, CRPJD 


Paul Carberry, Action for Children 
Lorraine Johnstone, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Lead Clinicians' Group
Juliet Harris, Together Scotland 
Gary Logan, Young Person Representative 
Diane Dobbie, National Youth Justice Advisory Group (NYJAG)
Val de Souza, Chair of Bairn’s Hoose National Governance Group
Pat Togher, Social Work Scotland 

Items and actions

1.    Welcome and Introductions

1.1    The Chair welcomed members to the meeting.
1.2    The Chair informed the group that the Minister for Children and Young People would attend the meeting for the SCRA Research Presentation. 

2.    Minutes and actions from previous meeting

2.1    The Group agreed the minutes from the previous meeting. 

2.2    The Group was provided with an update on the actions from the previous meeting.

3.    Review of the Act 

3.1    The secretariat had met with the subgroup Chairs on 13 May 2022 to discuss the work of their groups with a view to drafting a programme of work to inform the  review of the Act (and which had been circulated to the Group as part of the meeting papers).

3.2    The Chairs of the Data and Research and Victim Support Subgroups were invited to update the wider Advisory Group on their plans.

Data and Research Subgroup 

3.3    Fiona Dyer (CYCJ) informed the Advisory Group that the Data and Research subgroup are engaging with three European countries (Sweden, Portugal, and Luxembourg) to find out more about the age of criminal responsibility in other countries, specifically to find out about whether there are any exceptions in how children under the age of criminal responsibility are treated. This links with the Promise recommendation that the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland should aim to be be in line with the most progressive global governments.

3.4    Interview questions have been drafted for this engagement to find out the processes and services that are involved with ACR.  Interviews have already taken place with officials in Sweden and are scheduled with Luxemburg and Portugal. A report on this work will be issued for the next Advisory Group meeting. 

3.5    Separately, CYCJ and Police Scotland will submit a joint report looking at the data they will have captured for the first year of full operation of the ACR Act. The report will consider the number of [children / incidents] that meet the threshold for the police investigatory and other powers to be used, and also the number of [children / incidents] where the threshold is not met. The report will also consider the risks and behaviours involved, and is planned to be issued at the beginning of 2023. 

Victim Support Subgroup 

3.6    Debbie Storm (Victim Support Scotland) has recently taken over the role of Chair of the Victim Support Subgroup. The Subgroup will next meet on 20 June 2022 and will consider its terms of reference, and membership, with the aim of creating an action plan for future work.   

3.7    The subgroup will, in particular, look at the rights of victims and what additional support needs to be put in place and how to raise the awareness of this.  

4.    SCRA Research presentation

4.1    Sarah McGarrol presented the research report. This research was carried out to provide evidence on offending by children aged 12 to 15 years, and had been commissioned by the Advisory Group. The overall aim of the research was to characterise the backgrounds and offending by children aged 12 to 15 years.

4.2    During discussions, the following points were made:

•    This work will be useful for other policy areas, such as Bairns’ Hoose
•    The types of bereavement stated in the report are very traumatic; it would be useful to look at the trauma and support for children around these situations
•    This research could help inform attitudes more widely around this for community confidence aspects of the Group.  

4.3    The Minister mentioned the topic of bereavement, commenting that this could provide for cross-cutting policy work. She asked officials to link with the childhood bereavement co-ordinator.

The Chair suggested that the Group may wish for a dedicated session to discuss the research in more depth, which was welcomed. 

5.    Operational Implications presentation 

5.1    The Chair welcomed Neill Mitchell and Sharon Glasgow to present on the findings that were set out in the Operational Implications Subgroup executive summary report.

5.2    The executive summary report looks at the operational implications of raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14, identified by Police Scotland, Crown and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) and Social Work Scotland of increasing the age of criminal responsibility to 14. It was clarified that the work undertaken by the Operational Implications took place during 2021, and it was too soon to be more precise about the implications of moving to a higher age until operational partners have experience of 12 as the age of criminal responsibility. The subgroup saw no additional barriers for a higher age, other than the issue of disposals from a Children’s Hearing ending at 18. It was suggested that although the Operational Implications Subgroup had identified issues in relation to an increased age of criminal responsibility, it would be helpful for it to reconvene to identify actions that would address those issues.

5.3    During discussions, the following comments were made:

•    Police Scotland highlighted that with an increased age of criminal responsibility (of 14), the number of incidents would significantly increase: during 2016-2020, police data showed that approximately 1000 children under 12 were involved in offending behaviour, for an age of criminal responsibility of 14, this would have increased to over 4000 children. 
•    Given the increase in numbers, there would be a need to consider interviewing rooms and what these spaces should look like for children.

5.4    The secretariat asked the wider Advisory Group  for nominations for the role of the Chair for the Operational Implications subgroup.  

6.    Governance 

6.1    The Advisory Group had been provided with a paper detailing how the Advisory Group and Programme Board could co-exist to the end of 2022, and proposed a way for the Advisory Group to take on consideration of operational matters from early 2023 onwards. 

6.2    The Group was asked to provide comments on the paper by 22 June 2022.

Action: All – to send comments to the secretariat by 22 June 2022

7.    AOB

Care and Justice Bill

7.1    Brendan Rooney was invited to provide an update on the consultation of the Children’s Care and Justice Bill. The consultation includes a number of topics relevant to this Advisory Group. Responses to the consultation will be analysed and the team will be engaging with key stakeholders over the summer period to finalise a timeline for all aspects of this work. Group members were invited to respond to the consultation, if they had not already done so.

Date of next meeting

7.2    The next meeting of the Advisory Group is scheduled for Wednesday 26 October 2022. 


June 2022

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