Age of Criminal Responsibility Programme Board minutes: October 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the Age of Criminal Responsibility Programme Board, held on 28 October 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Lesley Sheppard (Chair) (LSh), SG Children’s Rights, Protection and Justice Division (CRPJD)
  • Lynsey McKean (LMc), SG Police Division
  • Denise McKay (DM), SG Directorate for Legal Services
  • Denise Swanson (DS), SG Access to Justice
  • John Trainer (JT), Chief Social Work Officer and Head of Child Care and Criminal Justice, Renfrewshire Council
  • Neil Hunter (NH), Principal Reporter, Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration
  • Samantha Faulds (SF), Police Scotland
  • Sharon Glasgow (SG), Social Work Scotland representative
  • Lynne McMinn, Director of Policy, Customer Engagement and Communications at Disclosure Scotland (replacing Gerard Hart)
  • Kate Neal, SG Directorate for Legal Services


  • Judi Heaton, Police Scotland
  • Graham Thomson, Police Division
  • Iona Colvin, Chief Social Work Advisor
  • Joanna MacDonald, Deputy Chief Social Work Advisor
  • Sarah Meanley, Police Division
  • Anna Donald, Victims and Witnesses Unit, Criminal Justice Division

Supporting official

  • Lucy Smith (LS), CRPJD
  • Katrina McNeill, CRPJD

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions and apologies

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

Minutes, actions and matters arising

The Board approved the minutes of the meeting held on 16 September 2021.

An action from the previous meeting had been to invite a representative from the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) to join the Programme Board. This had not been progressed, but will be put in place for the next meeting.

The Chair noted that it was not possible to confirm the date of commencing the Act, as discussions were ongoing with Ministers. The Chair agreed to provide board members with an update on commencement as soon as possible.

The Chair provided an update following the Supreme Court judgement on the UNCRC Incorporation (Scotland) Bill. The Supreme Court had found each element of the Bill that had been referred to it to be outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. Scottish Ministers are considering options to enable the Bill to progress. Implementation of the Bill will continue.


  • secretariat to invite SCTS to join the Programme Board


Update on court rules

DS confirmed SCJC have provided a timetable for court rules that would support Part four of the Act. Outstanding policy questions for have been dealt with and SCJC will share draft rules as soon as possible. Officials will use the draft court rules and work with partners to ensure that all partners are as prepared as possible for implementation of IT changes when the rules are finalised.

LMc mentioned the out of hours service which is dependent on court rules. Work will continue on this. Police Division will consult the judiciary about an out of hours service. Timing of approaching the judiciary will be decided when the commencement date is known. SF stressed the importance of the out of hours provision being in place.

The Board agreed that there are a number of partners who will need to time to be ready. Having early sight of draft rules will enable them to be as operationally ready as possible and will hopefully reduce implementation timescales.

Update on child interview rights practitioners (ChIRPs)

LS summarised progress to date. A number of solicitors applied to be on the ChIRPs register, and pre-recruitment training completed on 30 September. The final half day of training involved police officers, local authority social workers, as well as the would-be ChIRPs.

​​​​​​​The solicitors were assessed throughout the training, and feedback from the trainers will be included in advice to Ministers, along with recommendations for who to appoint.

​​​​​​​Some questions had been asked during the training, and additional guidance will be developed to answer these, to complement the operational guidance being developed by Police Scotland and Social Work Scotland.

​​​​​​​The Board Group agreed that the training has been a positive start and it is good that ChIRPs can draw on other engagements with children to inform the questions asked. NH noted the need for clear boundaries in roles and responsibilities to support sensitive supportive relationships.

​​​​​​​Given appointments are still to be made, of the solicitors who completed training, there are gaps for the following local authorities: Argyll and Bute, Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles. Two of the trained cohort have already indicated that they are willing to provide cross-Scotland coverage.

​​​​​​​Once successful applicants have been confirmed, officials will determine whether they are willing to cover larger areas than they had originally indicated on their applications.

​​​​​​​There was some discussion about the geographical coverage, particularly in the instance of an investigative interview being required in a remote area. The Board agreed that there may be areas where no suitable ChIRP is based, so there will be a need for contingency planning, including asking ChIRPs to travel further.

​​​​​​​There was discussion about how Police Scotland would access the ChIRPs register. A process map had previously been shared with the Police Scotland ACR implementation team. The contact details for that are still to be completed. The duty to hold and maintain the ChIRPs register lies with the Scottish Ministers. Officials will work to reduce any bureaucracy involved in ensuring that a ChIRP is available for an investigative interview. 

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​It was asked that if a child is taken to a place of safety would an IRD take place in middle of night. The Board agreed that operational matters should be discussed separately, and the outcome be reported back. 


  • geographical coverage of the ChIRPs to be considered by SG

Statutory instruments

​​​​​​​Two statutory instruments will be required Part four one in relation to the jurisdiction for applications for orders, one on reporting requirements by Police Scotland. Officials continue to engage with Police Scotland on the latter.

​​​​​​​The regulations which amend the children’s legal assistance scheme, and enable children who are the subject of an order under Part four of the Act to access legal aid, have been made and are due to come into force on 8 November.

​​​​​​​The draft section 104 Order was laid at Westminster on 18 October. The Order will be debated in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, debate dates are not yet known. The Order is due to come into force on 17 December 2021.

Update on places of safety

​​​​​​​LS provided an update on work to develop and publish the list of places of safety. Additional information was requested from local authorities, the deadline for this was 29 October. A link to the list will be provided on the Scottish Government website. Local authorities will be asked for updates quarterly.

AOB and date of next meeting

​​​​​​​The following items were raised.

Place of safety – reporting requirements

​​​​​​​SF ask if reporting requirements for places of safety are being discussed outwith this Group. LMc confirmed that discussions are part of weekly meetings with PS and a meeting dedicated to places of safety took place on 26 October, it will next be discussed on 2 November.

Operational guidance

​​​​​​​The Chair asked for an update on operational guidance. SG confirmed SWS and PS will continue their detailed discussions, which include out of hours provisions, and the transition between when disclosure at an investigative interview means that there is a child protection issue. This work will continue, and a workshop will be arranged for police and social work to consider operational practice.

​​​​​​​Date of next meeting

 The board agreed to meet in four weeks time on 25 November.


  • secretariat to issue calendar request for next meeting

Katrina McNeill

November 2021

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