Age of criminal responsibility programme board minutes: April 2023

Minutes from meeting of the programme board 20 April 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Tom McNamara, Children’s Right’s, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Ian Donaldson, Children’s Right’s, Protection and Justice, Scottish Government
  • Pam Semple, Age of Criminal Responsibility and Children’s Hearings Advocacy, Scottish Government
  • Louise Piaskowski, Age of Criminal Responsibility and Children’s Hearings Advocacy, Scottish Government
  • Kenzy Thomson, Age of Criminal Responsibility and Children’s Hearings Advocacy, Scottish Government
  • Melissa Parkinson, Age of Criminal Responsibility and Children’s Hearings Advocacy, Scottish Government
  • Anna Donald, Criminal Justice, Scottish Government
  • Lynsey McKean, Police Powers, Scottish Government
  • Joanna McDonald, Office of the Chief Social Work Adviser, Scottish Government
  • Wendy Dalgleish, Scottish Legal Aid Board
  • Lynne McMinn, Disclosure Scotland
  • John Trainer, Renfrewshire Council – Social Work
  • Neil Hunter, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration
  • Samantha Faulds, Police Scotland

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies

The chair welcomed members to the meeting which was followed by a round of introductions.

Apologies were noted from: Kevin Wilkie (Police Powers, Scottish Government), Denise McKay (Scottish Government Legal Directorate), Nicola Anderson (Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service), Graeme Welsh (Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service), Sharon Glasgow (Social Work Scotland).

Minutes, actions and matters arising

The group were content with the minute from the previous meetings and had no amendments. All outstanding actions were closed.

Learning event feedback

The chair thanked those members of the board for their involvement in co-designing, preparing, presenting and attending the Age of Criminal Responsibility (ACR) Learning Event on 26 January 2023.  

The day was split into two parts focussing on the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 (the Act) pre-commencement in the morning and post-commencement after lunch, table top discussions were followed by plenary sessions which allowed for honest, open discussions and reflections on partners experiences.

Attendees heard directly from Police and Social Work colleagues, young person representative – Beth-Anne Logan, one of the Children’s Interview Right’s Practitioners, Aaron Brown from the Children and Young People Centre for Youth Justice (CYCJ) on engaging with European countries and the former Minister for Children and Young People, Clare Haughey closed the event.

The learning event report was issued in advance of the meeting which provides thorough details on the discussions from the event, key themes and feedback from delegates.

Some key themes highlighted within the report included:

  • having effective communication and timescales to be highlighted as early as possible
  • advanced warning and materials/resources made available earlier to partners including Local Authorities
  • providing a greater understanding and ethos around the Act would have helped stakeholders and partners to understand the purpose and intentions of the Act, and how it impacts on them
  • more collaborative working between all partners and services involved
  • language and definitions to be clearer and more consistent (for example, clarity over what harmful behaviour means)
  • make sure rights of all children  are being accounted and legislation has a children’s rights based and trauma informed approach
  • discussion around the need for more information and support for victims and their families
  • need to raise awareness of the Act as well as ensuring that the public understand the youth justice system
  • it was noted that it is important for everyone including the public to have a clear understanding of the legislation and how it is intended to function in practice
  • complexity around Investigative Interviews – what this means for partners involved, and around training – similar to Scottish Child Interview Model (SCIM) training

There is a lessons learned log towards the end of the report.  This will be an ongoing tool which will be used throughout the review period.  It will likely form part of the report that the advisory group will draft at the end of the review period to provide Scottish Ministers with findings and what the recommendations are for a future age of criminal responsibility.  

The feedback from delegates was that this type of event should happen on a yearly basis to reflect on the learning, identify gaps and gather evidence for raising the age of criminal responsibility.

The following points were made by board members on the learning event:

  • members felt this was a worth-while event which helped to understand the wider ethos and provided an excellent opportunity for engaging with partners
  • members felt the event was well structured and that table top discussions were extremely valuable with a real sense of people wanting to work together
  • members were able to get a sense of the journey other agencies had from ACR even though there is as degree of frustration as the provisions within the Act have not been fully tested
  • the event focused on the need for all to support Police Scotland and their position under the Act.  Degree of urgency to streamline the processes or working together/collaborative working
  • presentations from partners at the event were empowering and set the scene for the day
  • there was a connectedness of different policy areas throughout discussions
  • these type of events will be beneficial to hold on a yearly basis to reflect on experiences, deepen knowledge and to test out a future age of criminal responsibility
  • the event helped to identify the gaps around victim support and community confidence which is a cross-cutting issue

A member of the board who was unable to attend the event reflected on reading the report that how joint investigative interviews are conducted needs to be fundamentally reviewed and to draw out the comparisons between different models such as SCIM and the support for victims.

Members of the board agreed that the lesson learned log should reflect the successes and the learning from these in addition to the immediate actions.

Notification of a duty solicitor

The Chair invited Lynsey McKean from Police Powers team at Scottish Government to talk to the paper on notification of a duty solicitor.  The paper was issued in advance of the meeting for members’ awareness.

The paper sets out the process for informing a child of their rights to legal representation when a child is served papers under Part 4, police investigatory powers, of the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019. Namely this process should seek to explain: (1) a child’s entitlement to a duty solicitor, and (2) their right to appeal. In addition, it should seek to ensure legal representation has been secured before a child appears in front of a sheriff.

If the age of criminal responsibility is to raise, there will be options within the paper that will need reviewed.

The Scottish Civil Justice Council (SCJC) have created child friendly forms to provide a child and their family to provide them with more details on the role of the Scottish Legal Aid Board.  These are not yet finalised.

The remainder of the paper concentrates on how if possible direct contact with a child can be made so as  not solely relying on the forms.  If possible to help translate processes. The paper sets out more detail around this. Diagrams are also included in the paper to provide more context on what processes could look like.

There was agreement that this paper should be issued to advisory group for further consideration at the meeting on 5th June 2023.

SLAB explained considerations to appropriate information sharing would be needed and suggested a conversation with the Law Society of Scotland may be useful. It would be important for giving assurance to a solicitor to take on a child’s case that enough information was available to support a decision and for them to be able to manage contact with the child well. 

Programme board closure report and way forward

The ACR programme board closure report was issued in advance of the meeting.

Members were content for the programme board to close on the basis that any outstanding operational issues or proposals noted within the closure report are taken forward by the ACR advisory group.

The chair invited members to provide comments on the closure report and comments from the group included:

  • the documentation of the advisory group’s work should be more visible and uploaded to the Scottish Government (SG) website
  • there was an ask for the remit of the advisory group to be updated to reflect the proposals detailed within the closure report and for this to be uploaded to the SG website
  • the membership to be cross referenced to ensure accurate representation of the existing programme board members are representatives of the advisory group

Any other business 

The chair thanked members for their delivery, enterprise, expertise and kindness that they have brought to the group since passage of the Act until present.

The chair informed members that officials will take forward immediate actions in relation the ACR advisory group to reflect the proposals within the closure report.


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