Age of Criminal Responsibility Programme Board minutes: May 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the Age of Criminal Responsibility Programme Board, held on 25 May 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Lesley Sheppard (Chair), Scottish Government, Care, Protection and Justice Division
  • Tom McNamara, CRPJD
  • Lucy Smith, CRPJD
  • Graham Thomson, Police Division
  • Jim Thomson, Police Division
  • Denise McKay, Legal Directorate
  • Nicola Guild, Legal Directorate
  • Anna Donald, Victims and Witnesses Unit, Criminal Justice Division 
  • Gerard Hart, Chief Executive, Disclosure Scotland
  • Sam McCluskey, Police Scotland
  • Sharon Glasgow, Social Work Scotland representative
  • Joanna MacDonald, Deputy Chief Social Work Adviser
  • Rod Finan, Office of Chief Social Work Adviser


  • Iona Colvin, SG, Chief Social Work Adviser
  • Judi Heaton, Police Scotland
  • John Trainer, Chief Social Work Officer and Head of Child Care and Criminal Justice, Renfrewshire Council
  • Neil Hunter, Principal Reporter, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration

Supporting officials

  • John McCutcheon, CRPJD
  • Katrina McNeill, CRPJD

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies

The Chair welcomed board members to the meeting being held to assess progress of the work to be completed prior to implementation of the 2019 Act in October. Apologies were noted from those who were unable to attend.

Minutes, actions and matters arising

The Board approved the minutes of the meeting held on 20 April.

There were nine actions outstanding from the last meeting. The action log was circulated to the group in advance of this meeting. The Board was invited to comment on the action log, in particular in relation to the draft s57 guidance and Child Interview Rights Practitioner (ChIRP) policy paper.  

Matters arising since the last meeting

Court rules – Out of hours provision

There was some discussion about the issue of out of hours provisions for the seeking of court orders in relation to the Part four powers in the Act. The Chair agreed for this to be discussed at the next meeting, if a solution had not been found before then.


  • officials from Police Division to provide an update at the next meeting

Child interview rights practitioner (ChIRP) policy paper and draft code of practice

The Board discussed the updated ChIRP policy paper and draft Code of Practice. Feedback from the legal sector had been received at the ChIRP seminar on 12 May. Officials have continued to work on both documents. The code will be finalised before the regulations are laid in Parliament. 


  • board members to provide final comments on this strand of work by close on 27 May

Officials are attending a ChIRPs mock training session on 23 June to road-test training developed by the Children and Young People Centre for Justice and the Scottish Child Law Centre for both ChIRPs and multiagency colleagues. 


  • secretariat to share training materials with Programme Board and Police Scotland colleagues in advance of the mock session

Update on place of safety consultations within Police Scotland, and with local authorities

Police Scotland

The Board was presented with the results of an internal consultation with a cross section of police divisions. Those who responded were operational officers, including public protection, initial referral discussions (IRD) desks, CID, major investigation teams. Views in relation to partner engagement were given using a RAG assessment. Respondents considered there could be perceived gaps in sharing information by/with partner organisations. The main issues identified were:

  • identifying an appropriate place of safety (other than a police station)
  • out of hours provisions, it was acknowledged by the board that in some rural areas the only practical place of safety may be the local police station

​​​​Other points made from the consultation were that operational officers would welcome a more joined up approach addressing place of safety, out of hours provisions, joint investigative interviewing (JII) and partnership working, including training materials, clarifying the interactions between JII, ACR and IRD. 

Whilst acknowledging that instances will be rare, officers mentioned the need for training in dealing with children who have caused harm while still investigating the incident. All agreed that the threshold for when to use ACR powers will be similar to the threshold of crimes that are dealt with by solemn court. Police Scotland is developing a decision-making matrix to assist police officers.

Update from Scottish Government re consultation with local authorities

There have been 31 responses to the consultation on planning for places of safety. Some of the responses were very detailed, others less so. Local authorities have been and are continuing to consider options. Many have identified suitable places or are in discussion for access to shared properties in other local authority areas. It has been noted that a risk/need assessment would be needed for the use of each place of safety.

Programme Board discussed availability of contacts out of hours and whether there would be a single point of contact for each local authority. The Board discussed and agreed that all partners should have procedures in place drawing on what works currently in relation to out of hours contacts. It was agreed that partnership arrangements are needed locally and nationally to ensure continuity. There are local ACR Act implementation leads in all local authorities who will consider what procedures and processes are required for implementation. Meetings between the Social Work Scotland and local leads are scheduled for this month, to explore these issues and will include discussions about partnership working with Police Scotland.

General discussion regarding places of safety

The Board discussed use of the place of safety power, and how this will work in practice, including how to ensure professionals’ training remains current when the number of times the power will be used (and IRD and investigative interviews) is expected to be low. There was also discussion of the importance of police officers and social workers having clarity on these matters for day 1 of full commencement.

Update on other areas of implementation

Section 104 Order

Disclosure Scotland commented that officials are making good progress with the section 104 order to extend the Independent Reviewer’s functions into England, Wales and Northern Ireland. A useful meeting was held with the Local Government Association in early May to discuss new burdens in local authorities in England and Wales, in relation to operation of Part two of the Act. The section 104 order is scheduled to come into force in December 2021. An additional SSI is required in relation to Part two of the Act for when the section 104 Order comes into force. Work on this is progressing. The policy note and ministerial briefing for that SSI (which is affirmative, so will require the Minister to appear at Committee) will be ready after the summer recess.

Timing for ChIRPs appointment and training

An update was provided in relation to timing of when expressions of interest to the ChIRPs register would issue, and expected timing for conditional appointment to the register, and training dates. Expressions of interest would likely close at end-June, letters are expected to issue from the Minister in early-August, and training would be provided in late September and early October.

Operational guidance

Police Scotland and Social Work Scotland have been working on the operational guidance. The most recent draft of the guidance is with Police Scotland, for comments.

AOB and date of next meeting

The Board noted that implementation of the 2019 Act is close to the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow (1 to 12 November 2021) that is post commencement. There will be significant engagement of children and young people at the conference and Police Scotland indicated they would welcome a discussion on handling any issues this could throw up.  


  • Sharon Glasgow and Sam McCluskey to discuss

Police Scotland raised their concern about not having the powers to take a child home, if the section 28 power is not suitable and a child’s home cannot be considered as a place of safety for the purposes of the Act. The Chair noted that the issue of police powers had been discussed as the Bill had progressed through Parliament, and since Royal Assent. The issue has been clarified and there are option for the police to take children to their own home outwith the powers in section 28. The explanatory notes to the 2019 Act set out when the police do not need to use the powers in section 28 to take a child home.


  • secretariat to provide detail to Police Scotland on this issue

​​​​​​​The Chair thanked John McCutcheon for his contribution to the work of the division and noted his long service in the civil service (48 years). Everyone wished John well for his retirement. 

​​​​​​​A revised date for the next meeting (towards the end of June) will be identified and issued.

Summary of actions

  • officials from Police Division to provide an update in relation to out of hours provisions for court rules at the next meeting
  • board members to provide any final comments on ChIRPs work by close on 27 May
  • ​​​​​​​secretariat to share draft ChIRP training materials with the Board and Police Scotland colleagues by 16 June
  • Sharon Glasgow and Sam McCluskey discuss operation of the Act at local level, with particular regard to the forthcoming COP-26 event
  • secretariat to provide Police Scotland with detail in relation to police powers


May 2021

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