Justice reforms: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

  1. How many meetings has the government held with representatives or experts of other countries about the age of criminal responsibility between January 2023 and the date of this FOI? List of all these meetings and any minutes/notes held from them.
  2. Full costs to the Scottish Government of running the Scottish Advisory Panel on Offender Rehabilitation in 2021, 2022 and 2023, plus breakdown of these costs? How much did the search for a new chairman cost, and breakdown of these costs, plus their salary?
  3. On juryless trials, all correspondence/minutes held from meetings with lawyers or advocates where they confirm they will take part in the pilot? Have any lawyers or advocates confirmed that they would take part in the pilot?
  4. At FMQs in September 28, Humza Yousaf said that the pretend jury survey was "the most comprehensive undertaken in the entire UK." What is the evidence for this, where the authors did not communicate with a single juror?


I enclose a copy of most of the information you requested.

The answer to your questions are:

Question 1: Since January 2023, Scottish Government officials within the Children’s Hearings Advocacy and Age of Criminal Responsibility Review Team have met the UK Government twice and the Northern Irish Government twice to discuss age of criminal responsibility. Details of those meetings are outlined below.

  • 2 May 2023 – Scottish Government officials met with a representative from the Northern Irish Government to discuss age of criminal responsibility in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. No formal note was taken, and due to the political position in Northern Ireland (with no power-sharing government in place) a follow up discussion was arranged for October 2023.
  • 12 May 2023 – Scottish Government officials met with three representatives from the UK Government’s Ministry of Justice to discuss age of criminal responsibility and cross-border circumstances. There was no note taken of this meeting, however, officials within Scottish Government provided information to Ministry of Justice colleagues following this meeting.
  • 1 August 2023 – Scottish Government officials met with representatives from the UK Government’s Youth Justice Department to discuss age of criminal responsibility and to understand the process for cross border circumstances. There was no note taken of this meeting, however UK Government colleagues provided some follow up information.
  • 17 October 2023 - Scottish Government officials met with a representative from the Northern Irish Government to see if any progress had been made on age of criminal responsibility. No formal note was taken of this meeting as there had been no progress to note in Northern Ireland due to them not having a government in place.

Question 2: The Scottish Advisory Panel on Offender Rehabilitation (SAPOR) is sponsored by the Scottish Government.

SAPOR’s purpose is to support desistance by providing approval and advice, setting standards and promoting excellence in programmes, interventions and processes aimed at rehabilitating people who have offended and by encouraging properly evaluated innovation.

Panel Members are drawn from both academic and practitioner backgrounds, reflecting the wide interest in offender rehabilitation in Scotland and the international landscape.

SAPOR holds quarterly meetings, and its operational costs include fees for Panel Members' attendance, expenses related to reading materials such as papers (reading fees), and travel expenses for in-person gatherings.

Please see the table below for operational costs for 2021-2023:


Attendance Fees

Reading Fees


Tax Year 2021- 2022




Tax Year 2022- 2023




For 2021, there were no meetings until March, with the operational costs being processed in April and included in the figures above.

For 2023, there have been no meetings since December 2022 due to the recruitment process.

There was no budget allocated for the recruitment of the Chair as the recruitment process was managed by existing Scottish Government staff.

The Chair is remunerated at a rate of £500 per meeting.

The operation costs above consist only of attendance and reading fees as the Panel met virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions and subsequent move towards hybrid working, so did not incur travel expenses.

There was a greater amount of reading fees in tax year 2022-2023 as the Caledonian System was submitted for reaccreditation at the December 2022 SAPOR meeting. This required the SAPOR Panel to review multiple manuals.

Question 3: The proposal to hold a pilot of single judge trials has not been enacted; it is part of the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill that is currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs met the legal professionals below listed to discuss the pilot and other aspects of the Bill:




The Aberdeen Bar Association

19 July 2023


The Law Society of Scotland

26 July 2023


The Scottish Solicitors Bar Association

27 July 2023


The Edinburgh Bar Association

27 July 2023


The Faculty of Advocates

27 July 2023


Simon Di Rollo KC

16 August 2023


The Glasgow Bar Association

17 August 2023


Iain Smith

24 August 2023

Partner at Keegan Smith Defence Solicitors

Lady Elish Angiolini

29 August 2023


JUSTICE Scotland (charity) Roundtable

25 September 2023

The Cabinet Secretary was invited to attend this roundtable.  Some of the attendees invited were solicitors and advocates. The Scottish Government does not hold a minute / note of the meeting.

I have reviewed the minutes of meetings and correspondence the Scottish Government holds that are relevant to the scope of your request, and can confirm that there is no material that falls within the terms of your question.

Question 4: This information is already readily accessible, including through materials published on the Scottish Government website. This request therefore falls within the scope of the exemption at section 25(1) of Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA) as ‘otherwise accessible’. This means we do not need to provide the information. However, we have included a brief summary below.

The report Scottish Jury Research: Findings from a Large Scale Mock Jury Study (www.gov.scot) was published in 2019. As the report sets out, the study was the largest of its kind ever undertaken in the UK, involving 64 mock juries and 969 individual participants. The juries in this study comprised members of the public who were eligible to serve on a jury, but were asked to come to a verdict based on a (fictional) filmed trial simulation, rather than a real criminal case. This is a well-established type of research, and is normally referred to as ‘mock jury research’. A key feature of mock jury research is that it allows the researchers to record and analyse juries’ deliberations, providing insights into the way that jurors discuss cases. This is not possible when conducting research with actual jurors, due to the Contempt of Court Act 1981 which prohibits questioning jurors who have participated in actual criminal trials about their discussions during deliberation.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in relation to part of Question 1 and Question 3, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested. The reasons why we do not have the information are explained in the Annex to this letter.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

FOI 202300379031 - Information Released - Annex


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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