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


Facilities for Assessment

206. All our proposals throughout presuppose that adequate facilities for assessment exist. If indeed the juvenile panels are to provide a more discriminating machinery for intervention and the application of appropriate measures of education and training, the existence of such facilities is basic to our proposals. We should make it clear at the outset that we attach great importance to the availability of such facilities in the community, so that only in exceptional circumstances will it be necessary for the child to be separated from his parents pending a decision on treatment measures. The task of making these assessments will fall on the social education department, using where necessary the psychiatric services of the National Hospital Service. However, it must be accepted that circumstances will arise in which the child cannot be left with his parents and must stay during this period in a residential establishment.


207. Where juveniles who appear before the courts at present are remanded in custody, they are almost always remanded to a remand home. Juveniles aged 17-21, at any rate from Glasgow and the South-West, are now in these circumstances being sent to Polmont or Longriggend remand units, and the unit also receives' a number of younger juveniles certified by the courts as too unruly or depraved for remand to a remand home.

208. In earlier times children were simply remanded in police custody, and remand homes as first conceived were no doubt seen as an improvement on this, exercising in a scaled-down manner the three functions performed by prisons in relation to adults, namely, safe custody pending appearance, detention as a punishment, and latterly places of safe custody for inquiries regarding disposal, as well as providing interim places of safety for children in moral or physical danger. We have already recommended (paragraph 193) that remand home detention as a method of punishment should be abolished.

209. Remand homes were recently reviewed by the Ellis Committee (a special Committee of the Scottish Advisory Council on Child Care). * That Committee were asked to consider "the principles on which remand homes should be provided and operated in future", though in view of our own remit they were debarred from considering the law relating to the courts' use of remand homes. In short, they had to assume that remand homes might have to continue to exercise all their present functions, and on that basis the principles on which they should be run. The Committee found that existing remand homes, with certain notable exceptions, fell far short in terms of accommodation, staff and diagnostic facilities, of what was desirable and necessary-in some cases deplorably so. Their main recommendations were that

(1) children 8-11 should wherever practicable be remanded to children's homes under the Children Act, 1948;

(2) girls of 12 and over should be admitted to a central remand home for girls, and boys and girls should no longer be accommodated in mixed homes;

(3) full diagnostic facilities should be available for each home; and salaries, conditions of service and training of remand home staff should be negotiated on a national basis;

(4) responsibility for remand homes should be transferred to the Secretary of State;

(5) in remoter areas places of temporary custody of the existing type should be continued-strictly for overnight stay en route to a regional remand home.

210. In a circular to local authorities issued in December, 1962, the Scottish Education Department indicated that the Secretary of State in effect accepted the Committee's strictures on the majority of existing remand homes. The publication of the Report had itself been followed by proposals from several local authorities. The Secretary of State also indicated that in his view-a view which we beg to endorse-the remand homes service is best regarded as a part of the wider child care service and can more appropriately be developed in association with that service rather than as a separate small organisation; and he had therefore decided that responsibility for remand homes should, for the present at least, remain with local authorities. As to salaries, staff and training, he was entering into discussion with the local authority associations. As to remand accommodation for girls over 12, the remand home for girls in Glasgow already catered, by arrangement with other local authorities, for over half the girls in Scotland placed in remand homes and these arrangements could be further extended. In his view, however, Glasgow could not be expected to cater for the whole of Scotland, and in some areas mixed homes would probably continue to be necessary. As to remand of all children under 12 to Children Act homes or reception centres, a decision was deferred pending our own deliberations. (It is understood that amending legislation would be necessary for such a step in any event.) Finally, the Secretary of State called on all authorities to give urgent consideration to remand provision in or for their areas, and to inform him of the arrangements they proposed for the future.


211. There seems, accordingly, to be prospect that within a reasonable period proposals will emerge which will provide at least the nucleus of facilities which could reasonably be developed so as to operate as regional remand homes for Glasgow and the South-West; Edinburgh, parts of Fife and the Borders; Dundee-no doubt covering parts of Fife, Angus and Perthshire; and Aberdeen. The extreme northern counties present a special problem.

212. Under our own proposals, it would appear to be desirable that assessment centres should be operated as an integral part of the social education service. It would no doubt be necessary to rely heavily for specialist assistance both from the educational child guidance service and the school medical service (all of which would incidentally form part of the comprehensive social education department which we are recommending, operated within the education service as a whole), and from the psychiatric service of the National Hospital Service. They should in our view be available for assessment purposes of any child in need, whether or not his circumstances are such as to justify a referral to the juvenile panels; and their use as reporting centres on an "out-client" basis (as well as offering accommodation for children who require in their own interests to be removed from home for assessment purposes) should be encouraged.

213. However well facilities for assessment in the community are developed, there will remain a need for accommodation of some kind for safe custody of children in certain circumstances pending appearance before the juvenile panels. Under our proposals the argument that "delinquents" should never be housed even temporarily in children's homes will in some measure disappear, and we agree with the Ellis Committee that younger children under 12 could well be accommodated both in these circumstances and on remand for assessment in such homes and centres. This presupposes a corresponding development in making diagnostic and assessment facilities available for such establishments. We also consider that there should be flexible arrangements for children under 12, the juvenile panels being empowered, for special reasons, in particular cases to direct remand to one of the assessment centres maintained primarily for the older age-group.

214. For children of 12 and under 16, we contemplate that regional residential assessment centres would also serve as places of safe custody pending first appearance. Such centres would, it is assumed, be secure establishments; otherwise there is risk of continuance of present practice in at least one area whereby older children under 16, being found to be unsuitable for the local remand home (designed primarily for younger children) are sometimes certified by the courts as unruly and remanded to prison (and thus proceeding to the Longriggend or Polmont units for 17-21s).

215. If, as we suggest, there should for older children be broadly four main regional assessment centres based on the four cities, with assessments arrived at on a "team" basis, it should be quite possible for the staffs of the social education services principally concerned to familiarise themselves at first hand with the range of homes and schools available throughout Scotland, and recommendations for placings to be made accordingly to the juvenile panels. We recommend that, as part of the assessment facilities available to him, the director of social education should have a definite and recognised claim on part of the time of the local hospital psychiatric services, and it would be for the latter to organise their arrangements accordingly.

216. Under our proposals, the assessment centres, and for younger children, children's homes, would continue to act as places of safe custody pending appearance before the panels. In the more remote areas, simple overnight accommodation would continue to be needed pending conveyance to the nearest assessment centre. The name "remand home" would disappear and the centres should be described as "residential assessment centres", which would in fact be no more than a true reflection of their essential purpose. One consequence of our proposals would be that the present arrangements whereby places in approved schools are allocated by the Scottish Education Department in response to individual requests, usually made by probation officers and education authorities, would be terminated. Arrangements would instead need to be made for lists of vacancies to be maintained at each of the main regional assessment centres, but this should not present any great difficulty.


217. Remand or assessment centres are ultimately holding centres. However well-qualified the resident staff, there will always be limits to the contribution that they themselves can be expected to make; and in that sense such establishments are primarily a convenient means of holding the child in a stable environment, into which a variety of specialist advisers and consultants may enter for the purpose of diagnosis and assessment. It was suggested to us in the evidence which we received that, at present, remand in custody tends to be adopted almost automatically in many cases where residential measures are under consideration. While this is no doubt sometimes done for the convenience of visiting specialists, it has to be recognised that as a result in practice children are sometimes being held for periods of as much as 14 days, in the course of which they may be seen by a psychiatric consultant on only one occasion, possibly for an hour or less. In the light of the arrangements discussed in the previous paragraphs, we consider that the use of reporting, either to hospital clinics or to the assessment centres on an out-client basis, should be encouraged. We realise, however, that in many populous areas arrangements of this kind would be likely to face serious practical difficulties, in that the people likely to be affected will often tend to be those who have no knowledge and possibly some distrust of clinics, and to whom ideas of attending for set appointments are altogether foreign. On the other hand, we understand that in some areas, where no local remand home accommodation at present exists, arrangements are not infrequently made whereby a probation officer collects the child on the appropriate day for appointment with a specialist in the nearest larger centre. While it is clearly impracticable to lay down any rigid rule, we recommend that wherever residential measures are under consideration, the juvenile panels ought to consider carefully in every case whether, for the purposes of assessment, retention in custody is in fact essential; and we think that there may well be room for greater experiment in the use of reporting on an out-client basis to the appropriate centres or clinics.


218. Where the police apprehend a juvenile, they are empowered, under section 40 of the 1937 Act, to release him pending court appearance in certain circumstances. So far as common law offences are concerned, the power to release is understood to apply only to cases within the jurisdiction of the lower courts of summary jurisdiction and not to cases reserved to the Sheriff Court (in that bail in the latter cases is a matter for the procurator fiscal). One result at present is that, in at least one area, "sheriff court cases" are automatically retained in custody, pending first appearance. For under-16s, the arbitrary distinction between cases involving various types of common law offences appropriate for the Sheriff Court and the lower courts respectively, would, of course, disappear under our proposals, in that virtually all cases would come before the juvenile panels. The statutory provisions governing police discretion to liberate pending appearance would require to be re-framed accordingly.

219. The general assumption underlying the present provision, which seems to us to be essentially sound, is that children will normally be liberated on an undertaking by the child or his parent for attendance in court, or on bail being found. The police, i.e., the officer in charge of the police station, is required to liberate unless

(a) the charge is one of homicide or other grave crime;

(b) it is necessary to remove the child from association with any reputed criminal or prostitute;

(c) the officer has reason to believe that the child's liberation would defeat the ends of justice.

220. If not liberated, the juvenile must be sent to a remand home pending first appearance (i.e., wherever possible, on the first lawful day): he can be retained in police custody only if the police officer certifies

(a) that it is impracticable to send him to a remand home;

(b) that he is of so unruly a character that he cannot safely be detained there; or

(c) that by reason of state of health or mental or bodily condition it is inadvisable so to detain him.

In such cases the certificate has to be produced to the court.

221. As to liberation or retention in custody, the provisions in paragraph 219 mean that in practice the police (and the officer in charge may in some cases be a sergeant) have a wide discretion. Items (a) and (b) would probably not cause serious dispute, but item (c) offers a very wide discretion. Again, as to overnight retention in police custody as opposed to custody in a remand home (paragraph 220), a wide discretion is conferred.

222. While particular cases arising from time to time may be the subject of criticism, we found no firm evidence of serious over-use of the provisions, and equally it seems clear that the police will always require to have a wide measure of discretion, given the wide variety of circumstances in which they are called upon to act at any hour. There is, for example, little evidence of juveniles being unreasonably detained in police cells on the pretext of being too unruly for a remand home, and in so far as the problem does arise, it is probably confined to areas where the available remand accommodation is for practical purposes designed solely for younger children. In such a situation, the courts for their part may equally-as we have noted in paragraph 214-feel constrained, on the child's appearance before them, to order remand to the Longriggend or Polmont remand units. In such areas it seems to us that these difficulties could be largely resolved by entering into arrangements with neighbouring authorities which do have appropriate facilities for older children. The development of regional assessment centres on the lines we have recommended would in any event go far to remove such difficulties in future.

* "Remand Homes": Report of a Special Committee of the Scottish Advisory Council on Child Care: Cmnd. 1588: 1961.

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