Report of the expert committee on how to deal with children in trouble which influenced the establishment of the Children's Hearings system


The Powers of the Juvenile Panels-Non -Residential Measures of Supervision within the Community


140. We have already made it clear in -Chapter IV that the juvenile panel's basic action, on being satisfied that ground for intervention exists, will be to assume oversight of the child, that oversight, as a practical matter, being carried out on their behalf by the social education department. We now go on to consider, in more detail, the practical measures of treatment available to the panels. These, as we have already described them in outline, essentially represent the application of a process of social education, which in the great majority of cases will be carried on while the child remains within the home, but which will sometimes involve his removal from home for temporary periods for more specialised and intensive residential training. Wherever possible the aim must be to strengthen and develop the natural influences for good within the home and family, and likewise to assist the parents in overcoming factors adverse to the child's sound and normal up-bringing. Our proposals will, we consider, result in a substantially greater use of community measures of casework with children on the lines of the present probation, or of supervision under the 1937 Act, the case-work being carried out most commonly, under the juvenile panel's authority, by the social work staff of the social education department which we are recommending. One necessary consequence of our proposals is that the present distinction between supervision under the 1937 Act and probation as methods of treatment for juveniles would cease to exist. Probation as such is a method of treatment which has from the outset necessarily evolved in the closest association with the criminal courts. As such, it will, of course, continue in relation to persons dealt with by the criminal courts, but can of necessity have no place under the arrangements for the juvenile panels which we are recommending. We discuss the practical consequences, in terms of reorganisation of local social services, in Chapter XII.

141. Referral to the panel will be at the instance of the panel's reporter, but it is obvious that the reports leading to such action may emanate from a wide variety of public and voluntary agencies, including the police. Moreover, in any given case any one or other of these agencies may have an important part to play not merely in the identification of the individual child in need, but equally in the separate and subsequent stages involving assessment of these needs and the measures to be applied as a result. When we say that supervision will most commonly be entrusted to the social education service, we by no means imply that this task will never be entrusted to other social agencies, public or voluntary. On the contrary, there may well be situations in which one or other of these is already in close contact with the home, and could more appropriately undertake the child's supervision. What is, however, vitally important is that the social education department should be recognised as having general oversight on behalf of the panel and as the central focal point of information and coordination of action. This will under our proposals automatically result on any case being the subject of formal referral to the juvenile panel, but it is equally important that similar arrangements should exist, where, as we contemplate, informal supervision measures (not involving prior referral to the panel) are instituted. The work done by the police in particular in these directions at present is not, we think, widely understood, and we think that it may be helpful to indicate their present role in this respect and under the new arrangements as we envisage them in the future.


142. The established principle under the Scottish system of public prosecution is that, while acts recognised by the criminal law as crimes or offences carry a liability to prosecution, the decision whether or not to institute proceedings in any particular case is vested in an independent public prosecutor. It is not perhaps generally appreciated that this discretion brings the prosecutor, who is normally considered to be more concerned with quasi-judicial functions, directly into the field of treatment. A decision not to prosecute has effect in the field of treatment in that, where there is no prosecution, there is no opportunity for the application of compulsory treatment measures. This consideration is clearly an important one. One possible result is that prosecution may be waived, on the view that the knowledge that he has been detected in the offence is in itself in certain circumstances likely to have a sufficient effect on the offender. In some cases, the prosecutor may couple such a decision with a decision to warn the offender orally or in writing; and may either do so himself or instruct the police to do so on his behalf.

143. Not all police warnings are administered at the explicit instructions of the prosecutor. Warnings may be given to offenders of any age and the practice has, of course, for long been adopted fairly widely for juvenile offenders. In this way, the police can be seen to be-from the standpoint of juvenile delinquency, an executive agency administering a particular form of treatment. They are also, of course, and will remain, because of their functions in crime detecting, one of the primary sources of identification of children in need of special educational measures; as well as being part of the sifting or assessment agency.

144. Within this general framework, the police have, of course, always and necessarily exercised some measure of discretion. The wide range of actions which may amount to common law or statutory offences, and their relative gravity or triviality in the particular circumstances of the case, makes it inevitable that in practice the individual constable in the course of his normal duty must exercise some measure of discretion, and equally that, even where individual offenders are reported by the individual constable, the Chief Constable or his senior officers will in certain cases decide not to report to the prosecutor. The origins of the system of police warnings are perhaps best illustrated by the example of the village constable, who in earlier times was very much a "guide, philosopher and friend", who knew his clientele, and who was in a position to judge those occasions on which an informal word of caution was the appropriate remedy. The system of "juvenile warnings" as normally understood, nowadays, however, implies a somewhat greater degree of formality, i.e., warning on appearance before the Chief Constable or a senior police officer. The latter arrangement, which was reviewed and commended by the Scottish Advisory Council on the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Offenders in their report on this subject, * seems to us to represent essentially a development of what has from the earliest times been a feature inherent in police duty-a development more particularly applicable to urban areas, where contact between the police and individual members of the public is necessarily on a more impersonal footing.

145. The essence of the juvenile warnings procedure as indicated in the S.A.C.T.R.O. Report, already referred to, is that it is informal and voluntary. Its exercise arises only where the police have adequate evidence of the guilt of the offender and it rests on an invitation to the parents to attend at a police station at an arranged time with their child where, with their consent and in their presence, he is orally warned by the Chief Constable or a senior police officer. The procedure is thus entirely dependent on the co-operation and consent of the parents, and the preliminary explanation given to them carries-and in our view should carry-no suggestion or implication whatsoever as to possible police action in the event of their withholding their agreement. The decision at that stage is, and must remain, entirely the parents'. Further, the procedure is in general invoked only in relation to first offenders.

146. The evidence which we have received suggested that these arrangements met with widespread approval and, apart from the few minor matters discussed in paragraph 148, we do not suggest that they need any appreciable alteration. It would, we think, be generally conceded that much juvenile delinquency, particularly among younger children, consists of acts of petty mischief which do not require elaborate or sustained treatment measures; and that, in so far as they do need to be dealt with by public action, they can very appropriately be met by means of warning. Indeed, as we have indicated in earlier paragraphs, we consider that, in future, warning at the instance of the juvenile panels will be a relatively infrequent occurrence. It seems to us that if in the future it is agreed by all those officially concerned in the preliminary sifting process that the appropriate outcome is in fact a warning, then formal referral to the panels is in most cases likely to be unnecessary. Warning to be effective should be given expeditiously, and we see no need in such cases to set in train the more elaborate machinery of referral to the panel. In saying this we are not unmindful that what may outwardly appear to be minor offences may on occasion prove to be in fact the symptoms of more serious underlying emotional disturbance. The risk of such situations arising in relation to the type of cases in which police warnings are at present given seems to us to be extremely remote. Moreover, in so far as there may in future be an extension of the police juvenile liaison scheme to other areas (a matter which we discuss in paragraphs 149-156), we contemplate that this will be supported by a growing element of relatively simple training whereby the police officers most directly concerned will have the necessary skills and insights to be alert to such possibilities, and thus to bring them to the attention of an appropriate social agency.

147. No preliminary sifting instrument can guarantee absolute success. We understand, however, that of juveniles dealt with by police warning about 90 per cent do not come into. police hands again. Even were it arguable that at least some of those concerned would have reacted similarly without a warning, we consider that this figure, bearing in mind that it relates to several thousand warnings annually (in 1962, over 4,000) must on any reasonable criterion be regarded as an indicator of the efficacy of the system as a whole. With cooperation and consultation between the police and the social education department we think that even this high standard might be improved.

148. The evidence before us indicated that the vast majority of Scottish police forces operate a warnings system in accordance with the S.A.C.T.R.O. recommendation. The exceptions are a few county forces serving areas where the need for such a system is in any event limited, and in which juveniles are no doubt cautioned by the local constable in the normal course of duty. In these areas, we understand that cases reported up through police channels to the Chief Constable are always referred by him to the appropriate public prosecutor; in these forces we are inclined to think, notwithstanding the factors already mentioned, that there may still be scope for the introduction of the more formal system of juvenile warnings by the Chief Constable or a senior officer. We also understand, that-a few areas apart-where a public prosecutor himself decides on a juvenile warning he does not administer it himself, but instructs the police to do so. We think that there are advantages in all juvenile warnings being given by a single authority, readily recognisable as such to children, namely, the police. Under our proposals, we contemplate that this procedure would be followed generally in relation to warnings decided upon by the reporter to the juvenile panel.


149. The police juvenile liaison scheme represents an extension of the police warning system in that warning is followed in appropriate cases by a period of informal supervision by a specially selected police officer, the Juvenile Liaison Officer, or, in larger forces, one of his team of officers. Supervision is carried out by visits to the child's home, school and minister or priest. Visits to schools and clergymen are made with the consent of parents. Efforts are made to enlist the child's active co-operation, and to persuade him to join a youth organisation near his home. Parents are encouraged to discuss their problems with the officers concerned and in appropriate cases attempts are made to help in finding suitable employment for older children.

150. The juvenile liaison scheme was first introduced in the City of Liverpool in 1949, and placed on a firm basis in 1952. The work of the Liverpool scheme is well described in the publication entitled, "The Police and Children", an extract from which, describing the scheme in more detail, is set out in Appendix C. We have had the advantage of discussing the Liverpool arrangements at first hand with the Chief Constable and officers of his juvenile liaison staff, and have also received full information about similar schemes in Scotland which have more recently been instituted in Greenock, Stirlingshire and Clackmannan, and Coatbridge. The schemes have since been extended to three other Scottish police forces (Kilmarnock, Paisley and Perth).

151. Somewhat different arrangements with essentially the same purpose have operated in the City of Aberdeen since 1936. Informal supervision in appropriate cases which are the subject of police warning is carried out by the probation service by agreement with the Chief Constable, after discussion of each case between the principal probation officer and a senior police officer. On the information before us, the results of both schemes have been highly encouraging, although we recognise that the Scottish juvenile liaison schemes have not as yet been in operation for a lengthy period. We also record that comment on the schemes by a fairly wide variety of Scottish witnesses was, with certain exceptions, favourable, though there was apparently some division of view among the police themselves as to the appropriateness of their undertaking supervision of this kind. Such opposition as was expressed appeared to us to be based largely on theoretical considerations and in some cases without full firsthand knowledge of the operation of the schemes. The arguments of principle and practice against the schemes seemed to us to rest essentially on three points, (a) that the application of supervision measures should in all cases be by order of a juvenile court (or any other public authority that might take its place), (b) that the work went beyond the scope of police duties, and (c) that the police were not trained for such work.

152. As the discussion in the preceding paragraphs indicates, however, the exercise of a measure of discretion in referrals has for long been an inherent and in our view commendable-feature of the Scottish system of public prosecution. We appreciate that the view has been taken in some quarters that the institution of juvenile courts, with greater assessment facilities, makes it appropriate that the application of treatment measures should in every case be decided by such courts. For our part we do not accept that view as applying either to juvenile courts as at present constituted or to the juvenile panels which we are recommending. Under our proposals, assuming that he is satisfied that grounds for intervention exist, the issue confronting the reporter to the panel will in every case be whether the child requires treatment of a kind such as to justify formal referral to the panel, as distinct from informal measures. In other words, the issue is essentially how best to treat the needs of the child, and whether this aim would be furthered, or could be attained only, by a formal referral to the panel. Nor are we able to accept the argument as to the nature of police duties. Police duty can never be static, and it seems to us that police juvenile liaison is no more than an attempt to apply, in changing urban conditions, principles which have always been and are still being carried out in a less formal way in course of police duty, more particularly in rural areas. Indeed the schemes seem to us primarily appropriate for urban areas. It also seemed to us that, among those urban police forces which have not so far adopted schemes, opposition to them was not uniformly strong. In at least one area it appeared that local attitudes were influenced by the fact that the police had in earlier years-prior to the introduction of the present statutory service acted as probation officers, and in that area the police were, in the absence of some more definite measure of official approval, reluctant to extend their activities into this sphere.

153. It was also suggested that the police were not trained to undertake this type of work and had not the necessary skills to identify cases in which the underlying problems were such as to require more intensive treatment measures by an experienced social worker. This view appears to us, however, to be based on certain misapprehensions. From an early stage of the introduction of such schemes in Scotland arrangements have been developed, in association with the Departments of Social Study and Psychological Medicine in the University of Glasgow, for a periodic series of group discussions (involving both theoretical and practical subjects) which are attended by officers from all existing Scottish juvenile liaison units. These courses are, we understand, likely to be developed further and should, we think, go far to ensure that all concerned are operating within a unified and informed framework of approach. They are, however, not intended to provide social work training, but simply to enable the police officers concerned to play an informed part in identifying signs of more serious trouble calling for specialist skills.

154. The efficient working of the schemes seems to us to depend in large measure on the quality of the officers concerned and the inspiration given by their superiors. Not all areas may have an equal need for such schemes, and we would not wish to suggest that the juvenile liaison schemes as at present operating are the only or the final pattern of organisation which might emerge. In some areas, notably in Aberdeen, different arrangements, dependent largely on the nature of the area and local organisation and local personalities, appear to work equally well.

155. In short, it seems to us that the existing juvenile liaison schemes are serving a most useful purpose. We commend the valuable and devoted work already being done, and recommend their extension to other urban areas. It would in our view be undesirable to attempt to place such schemes on a mandatory statutory basis. The schemes must in our view remain permissive. Their detailed form may well vary from area to area; and it seems to us that there is a place not only for the existing schemes, including that in Aberdeen, but for other possible local experiments, which are to be encouraged. We mention, as one example brought to our notice in this connection, the work already being done in the wider field of delinquency prevention by the City of Nottingham Police in association with local schools (an outline of which is given in Appendix D). Such experiments in the development of good police-public relationships, particularly with juveniles, seem to us to have an important part to play in the prevention of crime.

156. The evidence which we received led us to believe that co-operation between the police and the schools, and between the police and various other social services concerned with children's problems, in certain areas fell short of what is desirable. On the one hand, it seems clear that there are many occasions in which, were they to be approached informally by the police, headmasters and teachers could often do much to assist where signs of incipient delinquency are developing. Conversely, in some areas police activity in this sphere tends to be regarded with reserve, partly on the view that the police are in danger of undertaking duties thought to be appropriate to trained social workers. Those responsible for the operation of juvenile liaison schemes made it clear to us that they are fully alive to this problem; the purpose of the Glasgow courses already mentioned is, as we have indicated, in no sense intended to train the police juvenile liaison staff as social workers, but to enable them to play an informed and responsible role in the diagnostic or preliminary sifting process, so that cases beyond their capacity can immediately be referred to agencies competent to deal with them. There will always be cases in which the police juvenile liaison approach will be particularly appropriate and to which certain children will respond readily. Under our proposals, such schemes will continue to play an important part. There is, we believe, already a growing awareness within the police service and the social services concerned that each has a distinctive contribution in this field, and that their common objective demands that there should be the closest co-operation between them at all levels. Our recommendations for reorganisation of the latter services will, we think, assist that process, and we contemplate that under our own proposals, there would in practice be the closest co-operation and understanding between the Chief Constable, the reporter to the panel, and the director of social education in questions of general policy relating to informal methods of police supervision; and, at day-to-day working level, between police juvenile liaison officers and officers of the social education department.


157. In making a supervision order, the juvenile panel should in our view have the widest discretion to include in it any of the conditions which may at present be included in a supervision order or probation order. Because of the greater informality of proceedings before the panel it would, we think, no doubt be possible for the panel to apply, formally or otherwise, a variety of unorthodox conditions if it appeared to it that these would be beneficial in particular cases. The conditions could incorporate in a less formal way the "attendance" idea, i.e., attendance at some centre where the child would be encouraged to undertake socially useful work. This would, however, be done on what would be essentially a voluntary basis, and would not be linked in any way with compulsory attendance at an attendance centre. There will be limits to the lengths to which the idea of inserting formal conditions in a supervision order can be carried by the panels themselves; much can probably be done in this way by a supervising officer in the course of supervision, and in so far as measures of this kind were applied by the panels, we would assume that they would do so only on the recommendation of, or after consultation with, the officer who was to be the supervisor.

158. Under existing arrangements juveniles (whether regarded as delinquents or as being in need of "care or protection") may be committed to the care of a "fit person" (including a local authority). The effect of such an order is to vest parental rights over the child in the "fit person", and the child may either be placed with an individual "fit person" or, as more commonly happens, be placed in public care with a local authority (which by administrative action results in placing with foster parents or in a children's home). Under our proposals, the need for a separate legal provision of this kind will disappear. The juvenile panel's action will in these circumstances be to place the child under the oversight of the social education department, with the additional requirement that he should be accommodated under whatever appear to be the most appropriate arrangements, whether under public care or under the care of a recognised voluntary agency. As a result, while the child will in all day-to-day matters be looked after either by foster parents or within a children's home, legal jurisdiction over the child will continue to rest with the juvenile panel, exercising continuing oversight through the director of social education.


159. Finding of caution by parents for their child's good behaviour may in certain circumstances be a useful measure. This is a contingent liability, which calls for constructive effort on the part of the parents. It may be that at present it may in some circumstances work unduly harshly in that the parents' efforts may fail through no observable fault of their own, or alternatively because, through constitutional defects, the parents' efforts though the best they can muster are not good enough. Under our proposals, we recommend accordingly that the juvenile panels should have power to order finding of caution by the parents, but we contemplate that such a finding would normally be coupled with a supervision order placing the child under the supervision of the social education department, so that the full facts would be before the panel before any question of forfeiture, or sanctions in event of failure to find caution, arose.


160. In general, we should expect that in practice considerably fewer cases would be dealt with simply by warning or admonition on appearance before the panel, either because (as we have indicated) more warnings would be given informally, or because where there was an appearance, warning would be coupled more frequently with formal or informal supervision measures. A number of witnesses criticised the perfunctory and unimpressive way in which warnings were given in some courts; clearly a warning should be so given as to be unmistakenly recognised as such by the recipient.


161. Situations will no doubt occasionally arise in which the panels are satisfied that while the grounds of action (involving some relatively minor legal infringement) have been made out, there is nevertheless, in the light of the whole circumstances, no occasion for special treatment measures (except in so far as the fact of appearance before the panel itself may have had a beneficial effect). In these situations, the panel would simply make no order and discharge the case. Since, in the referral of cases to the panel by the reporter, the test would be primarily whether the child's needs were likely to be furthered, and could be attained only, by formal referral to the panel, such situations would in practice be unlikely to arise frequently.


162. Several of our witnesses recommended the introduction in Scotland of attendance centres. The Criminal Justice Act, 1948, provided for the setting up of such centres in England and Wales, the provision being introduced at a comparatively late stage of the Bill's enactment. At that time it was, we understand, considered inappropriate against that background and in the absence of practical experience of such centres, to make any comparable provision in the corresponding Scottish measure of 1949.

163. As now developed in England and Wales, the attendance centre system is governed by the following main features

(a) attendance at such a centre may be ordered for any juvenile aged 10 and under 21 who is found guilty of an offence punishable in the case of an adult with imprisonment;

(b) attendance may be ordered for periods up to a maximum of 24 hours and not less than 12 hours; attendance usually being on alternate Saturdays for sessions of 2 hours each;

(c) over fifty centres for boys under 17 have been provided, held in schools, youth club premises and police premises such as training schools (away from police stations). Part of each session is devoted to physical education and the remainder to handicrafts, gardening work and some talks on subjects such as citizenship or first-aid;

(d) the centres are staffed by police officers who undertake this work in what would otherwise be their free time, payment for their services being made at rates appropriate to instructors in local institutions;

(e) an experimental centre for youths of 17-21 has been operating at Manchester since 1958 and is staffed by officers from the local prison.

164. The operation of English attendance centres was fairly recently reviewed by the Home Secretary's Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders. ** They concluded that the centres had a useful role and that their further extension in urban areas was desirable. In the evidence which they had received, criticism had, they indicated, been made that the period of attendance was too short and that the intervals between the attendances were too long; that the training provided was not constructive enough, and that it should in any event be followed up by a period of after-care. In their view, however, at least some of these criticisms were based on a misunderstanding of the centres' purpose, and they drew attention to the published findings reached by a research inquiry carried out by the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, which were "that attendance centres are quite effective when applied to a young offender with little or no experience of crime, coming from a fairly normal home background; but, when applied to the recidivist with two or more previous offences, especially one who has already failed to respond to probation, the results are not at all encouraging". In other words, the attendance centre is a satisfactory method of dealing with a strictly limited class of young delinquents-those whose minds are still open to the effect of punishment by deprivation of leisure, and the influence of the attendance centre staff in teaching them to respect the law and the property of others. The Council's conclusion was that, judged by that standard, the centres appeared to have achieved a fair measure of success.

165. We have carefully considered the matter in the light of the English Council's findings and the evidence we have received. Some of us have also been afforded facilities for visiting some of the English centres and of seeing something of their work at first hand.

166. We doubt whether in Scotland it would ever be practicable to set up more than a few such centres in the principal urban areas. It seems to us that the attendance centre system has a useful, if limited, part to play in the treatment of juvenile delinquency. We recommend that centres should be set up on the basis indicated, and consider that they should be made available for boys under the age of 16. We do not feel that under our proposals it would be appropriate that the centres should be staffed by police officers, a view which was shared in the evidence given before us by the Chief Constables' (Scotland) Association. In saying this, we in no way wish to cast doubt on the valuable, and indeed devoted, work being done in the existing centres in England by police officers. Under our own proposals we can, however, see no cogent argument for this work being undertaken by the police, and we recommend that the centres should be set up and financed by the education authority and run by the social education department which we are recommending. In view of the strictly limited purpose of the attendance centre, which is of course essentially a non-residential form of treatment, we do not consider that it should be accompanied by any form of continuing supervision. If supervision is appropriate, we think that this should be applied from the outset. In practice, a supervision order will often include a requirement that the child should attend at the supervisor's office, and children under supervision may often on a voluntary basis be introduced to youth clubs and other constructive social activities. This is, however, essentially different from compulsory attendance at an attendance centre, and we do not think that the two methods should be confused.

* Police Warnings": Report of Scottish Advisory Council on the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Offenders, 1945
** "Non-Residential Treatment of Offenders under 21": Report by the Advisory Council on Treatment of Offenders, 1962.

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