Age of criminal responsibility programme board minutes: June 2022

Minutes from the programme board meeting on 13 June 2022

Attendees and apologies

Tom McNamara (Chair) – Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice Division, Scottish Government (SG)

Kevin Wilkie, Police Powers Division, SG

Lynsey McKean, Police Powers Division, SG

Lynne McMinn, Disclosure Scotland

Wendy Dalgleish, Scottish Legal Aid Board

Neil Hunter, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration

Nicola Anderson, Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service

Tracey Green, Police Scotland

Martin Maclean, Police Scotland

Sharon Glasgow, Social Work Scotland


John Trainer, Social Work Scotland

Anna Donald, Head of Victims and Witnesses Unit, SG

Denise McKay, Scottish Government Legal Directorate

Graeme Welsh, Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service

Supporting Officials

Lisa Hay, Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice Division, SG

Kenzy Thomson, Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice Division, SG

Lucy Smith, Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice Division, SG

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies

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

Minutes, actions and matters arising

Members confirmed they were content with the note from the previous meeting. ​​​​​​​

The Chair outlined the purpose of this meeting: to discuss ongoing implementation of the Act and to agree a way forward for the co-existence and governance of programme board and advisory group.

Implementation – ongoing implementation work and use of police investigatory powers to-date

Ongoing implementation work

​​​​​​​A paper setting out the following on-going implementation work was issued to members in advance of the meeting:

  • consideration of an out of hours service
  • on-going work on court rules
  • regulations setting out information for Ministers to report to Parliament on the use of the power to remove a child to a place of safety
  • how to advise a child of their rights to legal representation, and to appeal
  • ongoing consideration of operational issues
  • exploration of health pathways for the taking of forensic and physical samples from a child

​​​​​​​During discussions, the following points were made:

  • low numbers of incidents (to-date) means that the system has not yet been fully tested
  • the lack of an out of hours service for the seeking of court orders (beyond the system put in place for commencement of the Act) will cause problems as the system is tested
  • it is important to fully test the system before moving to a higher age of criminal responsibility
  • regular meetings between Social Work and Police Scotland enable operational issues to be openly discussed as implementation proceeds

​​​​​​​The Chair informed the group that the Children’s Care and Justice Bill consultation closes on Friday 22 June 2022 and that a draft timetable for the Bill process will be finalised shortly. 

Use of police powers, to-date

  • ​​​​​​​programme board discussed the use of the police powers, to-date, including use of the power to question a child, and the system for requesting child interview rights practitioners (ChIRPs). 
  • ​​​​​​​partners agreed that the process for requesting ChIRPs from the Register worked well. The ChIRPs involved in investigative interviews were considered to be helpful, engaged, supportive and solution-focussed

​​​​​​​Future governance arrangements

  • ​​​​​​​a paper was issued to members of the group setting out how programme board and advisory group would co-exist over the remainder of this calendar year. The paper outlined that any outstanding matters that have not been resolved by the end of this year will be passed to the advisory group, for that group to take forward as part of its review of the Act. It paper set out the different roles and responsibilities for programme board and advisory group, and also explained how a separate group (the operational working group, set up to support implementation of the Act) would speak to both

​​​​​​​During discussions, the following points were made:

  • that programme board should continue whilst operational matters continue to be resolved and should work alongside the advisory group. A comparison was made with the Children (Equal Protection From Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019 implementation group, which continues to meet
  • it was suggested that officials review the advisory group terms of reference to ensure these are still fit for purpose, and also to consider the membership of that group
  • as the governance structure is being finalised, it is important to have a specific place for operational issues to be dealt with as they arise, in a timely and appropriate way, particularly if issues need to be escalated. This may be directly with the lead policy teams, depending on what the issue is and how it needs to be addressed.
  • that is would be key for relevant infrastructures to be in place before the age of criminal responsibility it increased further

​​​​​​​Programme board discussed the potential of utilising the children’s care and justice bill to tighten the ACR Act, as long and this was within scope of the Bill, and so minimise the number of matters that may require to be taken on by the advisory group.

​​​​​​​Wider work was also discussed, and responsibility for oversight of a range of work linked to the children’s care and justice bill, the future age of referral (to a children’s hearing), an age and stage approach for interventions for children up to 16, and for young people older than 18, and how the advisory group would feed into this structure.

Any other business and date of next meeting

ChIRPs recruitment and training

  • ​​​​​​​programme board was informed that a second expression of interest exercise will shortly be published to recruit additional solicitors as ChIRPs. As with the previous recruitment exercise, police officers and local authority social workers will be invited to take part in multi-agency training.
  • ​​​​​​​Social work is keen for joint training to take place with ChIRPs and police officers. Development of local networks between professionals involved in investigative interviews is important, and needs to be considered (particularly if ChIRPs who are not local to an incident support a child who is being questioned).

Date of next meeting

  • ​​​​​​​programme Board agreed to meet in late September, for an update on outstanding operational matters
  • ​​​​​​​programme Board also agreed to meet in November, to co-design the learning event (which will take place in early 2023)


  • secretariat to issue date for meetings in September and November
  • secretariat to consider ToR and membership of advisory group
  • opportunities from children’s care and justice bill to be shared with programme board once analysis from the consultation is complete
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