Age of Criminal Responsibility Advisory Group minutes: October 2022

Minutes from the meeting on 27 October 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Tom McNamara, Children’s Right’s Protection and Justice, Scottish Government (Chair)
  • Gerard Hart, Disclosure Scotland
  • Alistair Hogg, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA)
  • Neill Mitchell, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA)
  • Jillian Ingram, COSLA
  • Aaron Brown, Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ)
  • Lynsey Smith, Includem
  • Fiona Dyer, Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ)
  • Marie-Louise Fox, Scottish Legal Aid Board (SLAB)
  • Lesley Swanson, Bairn’s Hoose Unit, Scottish Government
  • Lily Humphreys, Children’s Hearing Scotland
  • Louise Piaskowski, Children’s Hearings Advocacy Team, Scottish Government
  • Pam Semple, Children’s Hearings  Advocacy Team, Scottish Government
  • Lorna Aitken, Education Scotland
  • Kenny Donnelly, Crown of Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)
  • Gita Sharkey, Interim Unit Head Youth Justice and Children’s Hearings
  • Samantha Faulds, Police Scotland
  • Pat Togher, Social work Scotland
  • Katy Nisbet, Clan Childlaw
  • Sharon Glasgow, Social work Scotland


  • Megan Farr, The Children’s Young People Commissioner Scotland (CYPCS)
  • Val De Souza, Chair of Bairn’s Hoose National Governance Group
  • Mick Doyle, Scottish Community Development Centre
  • Paul Carberry, Action for Children, chair of community confidence subgroup meeting
  • Jillian Gibson, COSLA
  • Diane Dobbie, National Youth Justice Advisory Group (NYJAG)
  • Elliot Jackson, Children’s Hearing Scotland

Support officials

  • Lucy Smith, Children’s Right’s Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Kenzy Thomson, Children’s Right’s Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Lisa Hay, Children’s Right’s Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Mel Parkinson, Children’s Right’s Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Athena Lynch, Children’s Right’s Protection and Justice, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The chair welcomed members to the meeting. This was followed by a round of introductions and apologies were then noted. The Minister for Children and Young People sent apologies to this meeting and has confirmed her attendance for the meeting on 21 February 2023.  

Minutes and actions from last meeting 

An update was provided on outstanding actions from the previous meeting: 

  • the childhood bereavement co-ordinator report was published. The Minister had asked for officials to link with the co-ordinator and the Minister has since met with them 
  • a session was held on the 22nd of September 2022 to discuss the SCRA research in further details with Sarah McGarrol, researcher from SCRA
  • Neill Mitchell has taken forward the role of the Chair of the Operational Implications subgroup. The group has met twice since the last Advisory Group meeting and are now looking at the key Operational issues for going forward
  • the children’s care justice bill consultation analysis was published on 8 September 2022. 

Data and Research Subgroup

Dr Aaron Brown from CYCJ presented to the group the engagement around age of criminal responsibility (ACR) with European countries; Luxembourg, Sweden and Portugal, which was a recommendation from The Promise Scotland:

“To ensure that all children are diverted from the criminal justice system, Scotland must aim for the age of minimum criminal responsibility to be brought in line with the most progressive global Governments alongside efforts to prevent criminalisation of all children.”

The following points were made by members of the group:

  • the group were interested in Barnahaus and asked if any of the countries are offering or considering this service under ACR. Dr Aaron Brown will look into this and provide an update to the group
  • the group were interested in comparing the numbers between Sweden and Scotland
  • it was noticed how countries still talk about offending and offences when children are under the ACR threshold
  •  it was noted that some of the systems being described in the different countries are similar to the children’s hearing system approach. Headlines of ACR in other countries is 16/17/18 – this looks more like the age of prosecution rather than the ACR
  • the systems in place seems to make sure that children address their behaviour rather than trying to find the reason for committing the crime

The Data and Research subgroup will update the report which was issued in advance of the meeting with new data. This will be presented to the group and the Minister at the next meeting of the Advisory Group. The report will include information on how many children up to the age of 18 are involved in committing a crime, and to also look in more detail about the severity of the offence. 

CYCJ and Police Scotland are looking at the existing data and comparing this with the learning since the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) 2019 Act was commenced. A joint report will be created and presented to this group. 

There have been discussions with Police Scotland about capturing data up to the age of 14 and above. This would be beneficial to see how the processes in place are operating and if this would be suitable should the age of criminal responsibility increases.

Review of Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019

 Scottish Government officials provided an update on the actions being taken forward by the sub groups to support the work of the review of the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) 2019 Act. It was noted there is a need for Scottish Government to start facilitating the discussions with stakeholders about the age of prosecution and how this links with ACR. Group members were asked if they have any questions or comments on any of the actions outlined to please contact Mel Parkinson (

Any other business 

 An update was provided to group members on Children’s Interview Right’s Practitioner (ChIRPs). Following another expression of interest exercise, a further four solicitors were successful. The Minister has written to each of them to confirm their appointment to the register. Once agreed, this will mean there are 18 ChIRPs on the register to cover all areas across Scotland. 

A paper was issued in advance of the meeting from COSLA about the National Joint Investigative Interviewing Project. For further information and questions, please contact Jillian Ingram ( 

The Victim Support Subgroup last met in September 2022. There have been some changes to staffing at Victim Support Scotland. A new chair will be identified for this group. 

The ACR Programme Board learning event will take place in January 2023. This invite will be extended to Advisory Group members. The event will look at the learning from commencement of the Act. 

There have been some staffing changes within the Children’s Right’s, Protection and Justice Unit at the Scottish Government. Gita Sharkey is now the interim Unit Head for this division and as Lucy Smith is moving post, Pam Semple will take over the lead on the review of the ACR Act.  

October 2022 

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