Age of Criminal Responsibility Advisory Group minutes: March 2022

Minutes of the ACR Advisory Group: minutes: 17 March 2022

Attendees and apologies

In Attendance
Lucy Smith (Chair), Scottish Government, Children’s Rights, Protection & Justice Division (CRPJD)
Paul Carberry, Action for Children
Sam Faulds, Police Scotland
Davy Hill, Police Scotland Mike Findlay, Victim Support Scotland
Kenny Donnelly, Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)
Gerard Hart, Disclosure Scotland 
Sharon Glasgow, Social Work Scotland
Mick Doyle, Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC)
Diane Dobbie, National Youth Justice Advisory Group (NYJAG)
Fiona Dyer, Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ)
Alistair Hogg, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA)
Elaine Walker, Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS)
Jillian Ingram, COSLA
Laura Conachan, Children’s Hearing Scotland (CHS)

Secretariat/supporting officials 
Melissa Parkinson, Scottish Government, CRPJD 
Kenzy Thomson, Scottish Government, CRPJD 
Lisa Hay, Scottish Government, CRPJD

Lorraine Johnstone, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Lead Clinicians' Group
Juliet Harris, Together Scotland
Lynsey Smith, Includem
Pat Togher, Social Work Scotland 
Elliot Jackson, Children Hearing Scotland 

Items and actions

1.    Welcome and introductions

1.1    The Chair welcomed members to the meeting, and apologies were noted. 

1.2    The Chair informed the group that the Minister was unable to attend, and that Lesley Sheppard (who would have chaired in the Minister’s absence) had retired. Lesley’s replacement should be in post by the next meeting. 

2.    Minutes and actions from last meeting 

2.1    The minutes were agreed, subject to the list of attendees being corrected, and for an alteration in relation to the age of criminal responsibility in most EU countries, which had been noted as 15 or 16, but is 14.   

3.    Updates from Subgroups

Community Confidence subgroup  

3.1    The group last met on 21 September 2021, during which discussions had focussed on (1) potential survey questions to gather the public’s insight and opinion on young people and crime; (2) the Citizen Enquiry Approach; and (3) different engagement opportunities to build community confidence around the age of criminal responsibility, including ongoing dialogue with Age Scotland and Children’s Parliament, and also work being taken forward by Action for Children to develop ‘conversation cafes’. Timescales for these workstreams will be considered at the meeting of all subgroup chairs in May 2022.

Data and Research subgroup

3.2    The group last met on 19 January 2022, and a smaller sub-group met on 10  February 2022. A template has been developed for data collection in relation to the Act, which will be collated by CYCJ and fed back to the Advisory Group during the review period, as a means of examining the frequency of use of powers under the Act.  

3.3    Discussions are being planned with Police Scotland to identify data collection regarding behaviours that are not serious enough to trigger the powers in the Act, with the intention of learning from those incidents and identifying the needs of the children involved. 

3.4    The group has been considering the age of criminal responsibility in other countries. Having considered available literature, interviews will be planned with professionals from Portugal (where the ACR is 16), Sweden (where the ACR is 15) and Luxembourg (where the ACR is 18) to explore how these countries deal with children under the age of criminal responsibility.

3.5    The final report for the SCRA research (commissioned by the Advisory Group) will be completed in April and reported to the subgroup in May. This will be presented to the Advisory Group when it next meets (in June 2022). 

3.6    During discussion, the following points were made: 
•    The questions drafted for discussion with professionals from Portugal, Luxembourg and Sweden are considered thoughtful and comprehensive. It would be helpful to also ask about the key enablers for successful implementation (of the specific age of criminal responsibility) and what the biggest impact has been.
•    The data capture form will be important for social work colleagues. Whilst there is no requirement for social workers to report on data, the sector is keen to develop a tool to aid learning and to also share learning. 
•    It would be helpful to map out the data sources available, and to identify any additional areas or gaps to be focussed upon. 
•    For situations where behaviours are not of serious enough to trigger the police power in the Act, how can information be gathered and learned from. 

Victim Support Subgroup  

3.7    The group developed and delivered a joint communications plan to support the full commencement of the Act on 17 December 2021. This included an electronic flyer explaining the implications of the legislation to victims, witnesses and families, which had been informed by the views of  a young person with experience of the criminal justice system. Victim Support Scotland had also produced a webpage and a toolkit of information and materials for partner organisations to use on their own communications and social media channels Over 14,000  people were reached via social media with this material.

3.8    The chair of this subgroup will shortly be moving post (in April 2022). A new chair will be sought.  

Operational Implications 

3.9    An executive summary report from work undertaken by this subgroup had issued, considering the operational implications of raising the age of criminal responsibility from 12 to 14 across SCRA, COPFS, Police Scotland, and local authorities (for social work). The chair of this subgroup has moved role, and is not yet replaced. 

3.10    It was agreed that this work would be considered as a formal agenda item at the next meeting. 

4.    Update on Implementation   

4.1    The Chair outlined that a huge amount of work had been completed in advance of the Act being commenced in full on 17 December 2021. Some operational matters remain outstanding, which are being worked on: the out of hours service for the seeking of court orders for certain of the police powers in the Act; whether changes are required to court rules (for the seeking of court orders for certain of the police powers in the Act); secondary legislation prescribing reports by Scottish Ministers to Parliament; determining how to inform a child of their rights to legal-aid funded representation and to appeal; exploration of health pathways for the taking of forensic samples from a child; and ongoing consideration of operational matters.

4.2    As the Act is still only recently commenced, the Programme Board (which was established to oversee delivery of the Act) will continue to operate in the short-term, to oversee the outstanding operational matters. Programme Board will next meet in June, to review progress. 

4.3    Work is being progressed to deliver specific training to local authority social workers on ACR trauma informed practice, for preparedness for investigative interviews.  

5.    Governance and Terms of Reference of the Advisory Group 

5.1    The Chair introduced the revised terms of reference (ToR) for the Group, which had been amended to include reference to The Promise, and reflected upon the original ToR, and the themes that had been identified by the Advisory Group in early 2020. 

5.2    The Group asked for Barnehus to be referred to in the ToR. The Group was asked whether it would wish to consider additional themes, and provided the following: 

•    That the roles and responsibilities of social work should be integral to the themes, particularly when considering support and recovery after incidents. 
•    That interagency referral discussions (IRDs) should be considered as a theme, or as part of a theme. COSLA would be willing to provide the Group with a written summary from the roll-out of the Scottish Child Interview Model, for awareness.  

5.3    In discussions about governance more generally, the Group agreed that a memorandum of understanding between the Advisory Group and Programme Board would be helpful, and for this to be tabled at the next meeting of each of these high level groups, for sign-off and agreement. 

6.    Membership of the Advisory Group 

6.1    The Chair asked whether additional representation should be sought for the Group. The following suggestions were made:

•    The Children’s and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland should be invited to observe meeting. 
•    To extend the invitation to the Scottish Legal Aid Board, and Clan Childlaw. 
•    To invite Val de Souza, independent Chair of the National Bairn’s Hoose Governance Group
•    Agreement for the secretariat to confirm and invite new young people to join the Group 

6.2    The importance of representation from the health and education sectors was made, for the operational implications work and for the Advisory Group more generally.

7.    ACR Act Review – overview and next steps 

7.1    The Group was invited to discuss planning for the Review, and agreed that the secretariat should meet with with sub group chairs in early May to develop a plan for the review, particularly setting out timescales for certain pieces of work, and for this to come to the next meeting of the Advisory Group.

8.    AOB
8.1    The next meeting will held be in June – date to be confirmed. 

ACR Implementation Team
April 2022

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