Age of Criminal Responsibility programme board minutes: January 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 27 January 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • Lesley Sheppard (Chair), Scottish Government, Care, Protection and Justice Division
  • Neil Hunter, Principal Reporter, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration
  • Sharon Glasgow, Social Work Scotland representative
  • Davy Hill, Police Scotland
  • Graeme Welsh, Scottish Civil Justice Council
  • Wendy Dalgleish, Scottish Legal Aid Board
  • Nicola Anderson, Scottish Courts and Tribunal Services
  • Graham Thomson, Scottish Government, Police Division
  • Sarah Meanley, Scottish Government, Police Division 


  • John Trainer, Chief Social Work Officer and Head of Child Care and Criminal Justice, Renfrewshire Council
  • Lynne McMinn, Disclosure Scotland
  • Anna Donald, Scottish Government, Victims and Witnesses Unit
  • Lynsey McKean, Scottish Government, Police Division
  • Joanna McDonald, Scottish Government, Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser,
  • Rod Finan, Scottish Government, Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser
  • Denise McKay, Scottish Government Legal Directorate

Supporting officials

  • Lucy Smith, Care, Protection and Justice
  • Kenzy Thomson, Care, Protection and Justice
  • Lisa Hay, Care Protection and Justice

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies 

The Chair welcomed members to the meeting and thanked members for their input on the lead up to implementation of the Act on 17 December 2021.

Minutes, actions and matters arising

The minutes from the meeting held on 30 November 2021 were agreed. 

SG officials spoke to the actions detailed in the action log:

Training is being offered for ChIRPs applicants who were unable to attend part of, or the entirety of the training in September. This is expected to take place in February.

The final list of places of safety was circulated, as requested. Linked with this, a letter issued to local authorities on 9 December, setting out progress towards implementation. This included explaining the process by which a ChIRP will be contacted, and also setting out that the Scottish Government will seek updates from local authorities to the list of places of safety on a quarterly basis.

The Chair reflected on the significant amount of activity and progress that had been made between the meeting on 30 November and commencement on 17 December, and gave particular thanks to all involved.

Commencement of the Act – reflections from partners

Discussions focused on operation of the Act since 17 December: on the use of the place of safety powers soon after commencement of the Act, and an incident that had recently taken place and had been reported in the news media, for which the police investigatory powers in the Act had not been used.

Feedback from partners outlined the positive collaborative working between local authority social workers and Police Scotland focusing on the needs of the children as well as the incident. Going forwards, social work and Police Scotland will capture data from incidents and identify the learning.

The Chair agreed with the importance of formally and consciously taking advantage of the learning, and disseminating it across the country, and commented that structured learning opportunities may be required (such as a learning event after a certain length of time, such as six months).

Implementation – work to still be completed

An update on the work to still be completed was provided.

Short-term issues being led by Scottish Government include:

Provision of an out of hours service for the seeking of orders to authorise certain powers. SG officials were to draft an option paper for discussion by the operational working group meeting scheduled for end-February, and it was hoped that this would inform next steps.

Developing pathways for the taking of samples from children. Noting the links to health policy, SG is exploring who is best placed to development of these pathways. Until pathways have been developed, existing informal arrangements will require to be used.

Addressing questions raised by the Scottish Civil Justice Council which will inform the court rules which support implementation of Part four of the ACR Act. orders by PS. SG is currently prioritising consideration of these issues but notes there may be a need for ongoing dialogue with the SCJC on solutions. SG can update programme board on progress in the short term, but notes that the timescales for any amendments to the rules themselves are likely to be for the medium or long term. Please also see paragraph seven on implementation work by other bodies.

Putting in place mechanisms to advise a child of certain key rights (e.g. the right to legal representation, and the right to appeal).

Medium-term developments being led by Scottish Government include:

The development of a Scottish Statutory Instrument which will prescribe the particulars of reports to be laid by the Scottish Ministers in Parliament on the use of the power to take a child to a place of safety.

Identifying how best to learn from the operational reality of the Act, linking in with Social Work Scotland, and health colleagues. Officials will develop a proposal for how that group might approach its work and inform learning, and potentially the Advisory Group.

Implementation work being led by other organisations:

The Scottish Civil Justice Council is taking forward further work on court rules, including development and consideration of child friendly forms. Implementation of the ACR Act is a standing agenda item for the SCJC. No court orders had yet been sought. Comments were made that applications (as they are made) will help inform where court rule adjustments may be required.

Programme board discussed how SG might be able to support SCJC with work from other legislation going through Parliament. SCJC has recently attended a meeting with SG Access to Justice officials, to promote a broader and wider understanding of court processes. SCJC would be happy to run workshops for officials, to explain what civil procedures look like, and so help inform policy development.

Any other business and date of next meeting

Under any other business, the Chair raised the future of this board, following commencement of the Act, and the overarching governance of future work. Board members were invited for their views.

The Chair commented that this programme board had been set up to oversee the steering to full implementation of the Act. Whilst the board has delivered on its remit, with commencement of the Act now complete, outstanding issues need to be addressed and finalised, there is a need to learn from this process, and also consideration of the move to a future age. This reads across to the Advisory Group, and the operational working group established last summer, for operational delivery of Part four of the Act.

During discussions, the following points were made:

The programme board had brought the right people together to deal with the barriers of commencing the Act.

The approach of the programme board had been focused and narrow.

A programme board should only exist for as long as it adds value.

Given the existence of the Advisory Group, and its remit to review operation of the Act, if this board was content that there is sufficient focus and momentum to complete the outstanding issues for implementation, then a final, closure meeting could take place, and all remaining work link to the Advisory Group.

It would be important to consider the next phase of work – the review.

The Advisory Group would appear to be the appropriate forum, with additional strengthening.

A learning event, probably in nine months’ time, would be helpful. This would consider the wins and the challenges, and to be taken forward in an inclusive, inter-agency basis.

Suggested closure report for the programme board to consider at the next meeting.

A lessons learned document would need to be iterative, as full implementation of the Act proceeds’

As the next stage approaches (post-review), for programme board to be re-established.

Important for the remaining operational work to be progressed, and to consider how this could be brought into the work of the Advisory Group.

It was agreed that the future of the programme board would be discussed at the next meeting. SG officials would consider future oversight and governance arrangements for implementation of the Act, and the relationships between programme board, advisory group, advisory group sub-groups, and the operational working group. Members were invited to send thoughts about the way forward to the SG ACR implementation team.

It was agreed that the next meeting would be in five-six weeks’ time (early- to mid-March). 

Back to top