Age of Criminal Responsibility Programme Board minutes: May 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the Age of Criminal Responsibility Programme Board, held on 26 May 2020.

Attendees and apologies


  • Tom McNamara (acting Chair) Scottish Government, Youth Justice and Children’s Hearing Unit  
  • Clare Hicks, Scottish Government, Deputy Director, Police Division 
  • Anna Donald, Scottish Government, Head of Victims and Witnesses Unit 
  • Denise McKay, Scottish Government Legal Directorate, Deputy Director 
  • Samantha McCluskey, Police Scotland, Public Protection
  • Neil Hunter, Principal Reporter, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration 
  • Gerard Hart, Director of Protection Services and Policy, Disclosure Scotland
  • Bel McEwan, Social Work Scotland

Supporting officials 

  • Lucy Smith, Scottish Government, Care, Protection & Justice
  • Kenzy Thomson, Scottish Government, Care, Protection & Justice 

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed Board members to the meeting and highlighted that Lesley Sheppard had been moved temporarily to work on COVID-19.  Acting Deputy Director was now Bill Scott-Watson during this period.

Minutes, actions and matters arising

The Board approved the minutes of the meeting held on 30 January 2020. 


  • Secretariat to publish the minutes for the meeting held on 30 January

The Secretariat provided an update on actions from the last meeting: 

Action Status
Secretariat to circulate comments received in relation to risks, and proposed actions stemming from these To be completed
Police Scotland to continue working with the SG implementation team to identify pragmatic solutions to issues raised Ongoing
Board members to send the Secretariat comments on the draft guidance by 19 February 2020 Completed
Secretariat to clarify length of time needed for consultation on draft guidance To be completed

Update paper for Advisory Group 

The Chair spoke to the update paper on implementation that had been issued to the ACR Advisory Group (on 4 May), and shared with Board members. Each area in the update paper was briefly discussed. 

The Secretariat provided a brief update on links between the work to implement the Act with other areas, including the revision of the National Guidance on Child Protection, and the JII pilot schemes. 

Formal exchange of updates 

Board members provided updates from their respective areas. The following key points were shared, with Covid-19 having an impact on resources and capacity across all areas and organisations.

  • Disclosure Scotland: implementation of Part 2 has been delayed due to Covid-19. This Part of the Act will be commenced as quickly and as safely as possible; timing is dependent on the pandemic and how quickly the organisation is able to return to some form of business as usual. The Independent Reviewer has been appointed. Induction meetings are being rescheduled as much as possible (and will be virtual or by phone). Implementation work around guidance continues with stakeholders. Whilst the DS digitisation programme is delayed, this should not ultimately impact on implementation of the Act; work needed for ACR will proceed manually until the digital solution is in place
  • Police Scotland: whilst implementation remains a priority, despite the pandemic. There are issues in relation to terminology: ‘significant harm’ and ‘serious harm’ are both referred to in Part 4 of the Act, and the Ministerial guidance will need to be completely clear about use of the powers in the Act, given the difference in terminology and the duty of police officers to investigate crime.  Emphasised concerns about deliverability even on new timeframe to end 2021
  • Social Work Scotland: concern remains in relation to operational readiness for implementation, even with the extended deadline. Social Work Scotland remains committed to working with partner agencies in relation to ACR implementation, but capacity is significantly reduced at present
  • Scottish Government: focus across the organisation has been on dealing with the pandemic from a legislative and practical perspective. Dedicated resources for implementation are reduced. Internal discussions still to be had about JII
  • SCRA: stopped taking offence grounds in November; the numbers [of children who would previously have been referred to a hearing on offence grounds and are now referred on other grounds] are small

AOB and date of next meeting 

The following AOB point was raised:  

  • the Scottish Ministers have agreed for a public consultation on referring all 16 and 17 year olds to the children’s hearings system. The consultation will require focussed discussions around improved support and information for victims and for the parents / carers of child victims

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday 30 June, between 10:00 and 12:00. 


  • members of the Programme Board to submit comments on the draft s28 guidance to the secretariat by close on 25 June 2020

June 2020

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