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


Consequential Matters

223. The general arrangements which we propose necessarily involve legislation which would, we contemplate, embody the main principles underlying our proposals, and would also include powers enabling rules to be made governing many of the detailed matters relating to the constitution of the juvenile panels and the necessary procedural machinery. We have not sought to discuss all those matters in detail; many of them would, if our main proposals are accepted, no doubt be the subject of detailed examination by expert working parties. Having set out our broad intentions, we do not envisage that any of the procedural questions arising are by any means likely to be incapable of solution. We think it desirable, however, to comment on several consequential matters arising from our proposals.


224. Section 50 of the 1937 Act excludes from the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts cases in which a charge is made jointly against a child or young person and a person over the age of 17. This general provision does not, however, apply where a child or young person is charged with an offence, and a person over 17 is charged with aiding and abetting him. Under existing arrangements, juveniles and adults are not infrequently dealt with separately. While the matter cannot in our view be made the subject of invariable rule, we should expect under our proposals that the great majority of juveniles so involved would be referred at the outset to the juvenile panels. Even where, by virtue of the continuing Crown discretion, they were not, we recommend that in every case where a juvenile is exceptionally brought before a criminal court and is found to have committed an offence, that court should be empowered to remit the case to the appropriate juvenile panel for consideration of treatment measures.


225. In most areas we contemplate that appointments would be on a voluntary and part-time basis. In the largest urban areas, it might, we think, well be found necessary for the efficient working of individual panels and in view of the likely volume of business and frequency of sittings, to make provision for appointment of one or more full-time salaried chairmen of the panels. Such appointments would as in other cases be made by the Sheriff; provision should be made for salaries and conditions of appointment in these cases to be regulated under rules to be made by the Secretary of State.


226. We consider that at present in many cases juvenile courts are being held in premises totally unsuited for the purpose. What is essentially required for the juvenile panels recommended under our proposals is relatively simple accommodation of the committee-room type, preferably in reasonably modern buildings, the room itself combining an atmosphere of simplicity and unobtrusive and unostentatious dignity. Sufficient waiting-rooms should be available. Sittings of the panels should be held in premises quite apart and dissociated entirely from the criminal courts and police stations. In many areas, suitable accommodation might well be found in schools (outwith school hours), public libraries and other public buildings. Hours of sittings must be a matter for local arrangement, but despite the difficulties of staffing and administration, we hope that it may be possible-bearing in mind the desirability of securing both parents' attendance-to arrange more widely for evening sittings and in some .cases for Saturday sittings.


227. In some cases the panel's consideration of individual cases may well extend over a series of sittings at which, if the beneficial results we look to are to be achieved, the parents' continued attendance will be necessary. We consider that, if the co-operation of the parents is to be effectively enlisted in this way, arrangements should be made, where tile panel so approve, for reimbursement of expenses and possibly loss of earnings. We contemplate that there would have to be a minimum rate of outlay before expenses were reclaimable, and payment would be restricted to those on National Assistance or who could otherwise show serious need.


228. There was widespread agreement among the witnesses who appeared before us as to the need for further research both into factors governing child development and into the efficacy of particular forms of treatment for children in special need. We endorse this view. We commend the pioneer work already being done in these directions by Government- assisted research, and we hope that the universities themselves will be able to give an increasing measure of priority to this important work.

229. It is equally important that the results of such studies should be made fully available to those serving on the juvenile panels which we have recommended. We recommend that regular arrangements should be instituted in each area, as well as for periodic conferences at national level, to provide both basic information and wider interchange of ideas and experience among members of the panels. Indeed, such arrangements seem to us to be essential if the panels are to operate on an adequately informed basis, and a willingness to consider new ideas and methods is equally important to their essential flexibility of approach. Regular arrangements should in our view be made in each area for courses of lectures and discussions for all new members of panels (as well as refresher courses for serving members), extending both to the powers and machinery at their disposal, and including talks by members of the social education department and other local social services, as well as for visits to assessment centres, children's homes and residential schools.


230. We recommend that the costs of accommodation and administration of the juvenile panels, including those of the reporter to the panel and his staff, should be met by the education authority. Provision should be made by rules (to be made by the Secretary of State) for reimbursement of travelling and subsistence expenses of members of the panels.


231. We understand that in some areas the view has been taken that the police should not, in appealing in connection with juvenile cases, be in uniform. We can see no sound basis for this, and recommend that in so far as such practices have developed they should be terminated.

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