8. Special Protections
Relevant UNCRC Articles: 22, 30, 32, 33, 35, 36, 37(b-d), 38-40
This cluster focuses on groups of children and young people who require special protection.
8.1 Children and Young People Involved in Offending or at Risk of Offending Behaviour
“The minimum age of criminal responsibility increase is positive. However, we still need to look at wider factors affecting young people rather than criminalising them.”
Amy Lee, MSYP, feedback on December 2017 meeting
with the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice, Glasgow
The Scottish Ministers view youth justice through the prism of children’s rights. There is also strong commitment across partners within the youth justice and Children’s Hearings Systems to the principles of the UNCRC. Trauma, distress and adversity are the day to day realities for young people involved in offending and the Government’s focus is on strengthening family, place and community and responding to the needs of individual young people. Offending behaviour is harmful to individuals and communities and the guiding principle of ‘needs not deeds’ from the 1964 Kilbrandon Report remains core to preventing offending and improving life chances.
Research and evidence, including the influential Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions, highlights that contact with the justice system is one of the key predictors of future offending. A bold shift to prevention in 2008 and the roll out of the Whole System Approach (WSA) to youth justice in 2011 placed a focus on increasing opportunities to divert young people from prosecution and promoting the use of early and effective interventions (EEI) as far as possible.
An evaluation published in June 2015 demonstrated that the WSA has been a galvanising factor in driving improvements in partnership working, information sharing and shared learning across agencies with improved outcomes for children and young people. Illustrations of progress over the last 11 years include an 81% reduction in the number of children referred to the Children’s Reporter on offence grounds, a 79% fall in 12-17 year olds proceeded against in court and a 79% decrease in under 18s in custody.
In June 2015, the Scottish Government also published a youth justice strategy Preventing Offending: Getting it Right for Children and Young People, which aims to build on striking success over the last 11 years in reducing offending and keeping children and young people out of the criminal justice system. The Strategy focuses on 3 priority areas:
- Advancing the Whole System Approach to ensure young people get the right help at the right time;
- improving life chances; and
- developing capacity and improvement to support the workforce and improve systems.
Delivery of the strategy is supported by partners on the Youth Justice Improvement Board (YJIB) which meets quarterly. A progress report was published in June 2017, highlighting areas of impact and influence on the 3 priority areas as delivered through the Board and its implementation groups. The Scottish Government continues to work with partners to deliver improvements to youth justice through delivery of the strategy.
8.2 Age of Criminal Responsibility
A key focus for the Scottish Government’s youth justice strategy is raising Scotland’s age of criminal responsibility. The current age of criminal responsibility in Scotland is 8 years old. A child under 12 cannot be prosecuted through the courts but can be referred on an offence ground to the Children’s Hearings System.
An expert Advisory Group was convened in 2015 to consider the policy, legislative and procedural implications of raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility from 8 years to 12. Its report, published in March 2016, made a number of recommendations which informed the public consultation, which ran from 18 March to 17 June 2016. Separate engagement took place with children and young people aged from 8 to 22 years at a series of events across Scotland from May to July 2016, targeting those affected by current legislation and those that have experienced negative life events as a result of contact with the criminal justice system from an early age.
On 1 December 2016, the Scottish Government announced that it would introduce a Bill in the current parliamentary session, to increase the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12 years old; aligning it with the current minimum age of prosecution and reflecting Scotland’s commitment to international human rights standards. The Bill was introduced in March 2018 and is now proceeding through the Scottish Parliament. The Bill contains provisions relating to police investigatory powers; handling of forensic samples; disclosure; and risk management arrangements along with sustaining victim and community confidence.
Delivery Groups were established in November and December 2017 to focus on the work required to plan, prepare for and implement the provisions in the Bill. Further engagement with children and young people has taken place throughout the Bill process, and opportunities to involve them in the implementation of the Bill are being explored.
Disclosure of Childhood Offending
The Scottish Government has also committed to looking afresh at the disclosure of early childhood offending to enable young people to move beyond early mistakes. Disclosure of offending by under 12 year olds is being dealt with by way of provisions in the current Bill to raise the age of criminal responsibility. In addition, the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Bill, also progressing through Parliament, includes reforms to the system of basic disclosure for those aged under 18. The main effect of these reforms will be, if approved by the Scottish Parliament, no disclosure at all of disposals from children’s hearings and more restricted disclosure of convictions received by an under 18 in a criminal court. These are important changes in helping young people to move on from offending behaviour and to access positive life opportunities through education and employment.
The review of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups and Disclosure of Criminal Information offers an opportunity to take further steps on the journey to improving, and simplifying the disclosure regime for all; and providing positive impacts for those with convictions whilst balancing public protection. The review includes proposals that, if enacted, would represent a further improvement in the position of children and young people aged 12 and over with regards to the disclosure regime.
8.3 Children’s Hearings System
Scottish Ministers continue to fully support and fund the Children’s Hearings System, Scotland’s unique system of care and justice for children and young people. Children can be referred to the hearings system both on offence and welfare grounds. The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, which came into force in June 2013, strengthened and modernised the System, whilst continuing to respect the fundamental principles set out by Lord Kilbrandon’s Committee in 1964, that children and young people who offend and those who require care and protection are equally in need and deserving of all the support and help that can be provided. The safeguarding and promotion of a child’s welfare going through the Children’s Hearings system are paramount and every effort is made to ensure that their voices are elicited, and heard, at every stage of the proceedings.
Hearing the views of Children and Young People in the Hearings System
Where children appear before a Hearing, either on welfare or offence grounds, the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 requires the children’s hearing or the sheriff to give the child an opportunity to express their views and to have regard to those views (apart from child protection order cases) when coming to a decision. Children and young people have an opportunity to give their views through a number of different means, for example, verbally at the hearing, in writing or through a recording.
The Scottish Government is funding a Digital Strategy for the Children’s Hearings System. The Strategy is designed to improve the service provided to children, young people and their families, improving participation through the use of digital tools.
Progress has been made on the development of an effective and sustainable advocacy service for the Children’s Hearings System. Beginning in 2015, and working closely with advocacy providers in different parts of the country, the Scottish Government has been testing different models of delivery. A model for the delivery of advocacy services has now been approved and, working with an Expert Reference Group of stakeholders, a National Practice Model and Service Specification has been agreed. The necessary work on procurement and regulations is underway and it is planned to introduce a national Advocacy Service for the Children’s Hearings System by late 2019, early 2020’.
The Scottish Government has also supported other areas of work, including promoting the involvement of children and young people in the training of panel members; the creation of the Our Hearings, Our Voice, children and young people’s board for the Hearings System; and the continuing modernisation of hearings rooms to help create a more child friendly and less formal atmosphere, with the involvement of young people.
Improvements are also being made through the Children’s Hearings Improvement Partnership (CHIP). Chaired by Scottish Government, CHIP is a multi-agency partnership with a common commitment to work together to improve outcomes for Scotland’s most vulnerable and at risk children and young people.
8.4 Focus on Prevention
Alongside action to raise the age of criminal responsibility and the work of the Children’s Hearings System, the Scottish Government and key agencies are promoting a range of measures to prevent offending and to keep children and young people out of the hearings and criminal justice systems.
No Knives Better Lives
No Knives Better Lives (NKBL), is Scotland’s national initiative which works with local organisations to provide information and support to raise awareness of the consequences of carrying a knife and provide information on local activities and opportunities for young people. Since 2009, the NKBL National Delivery Team (based at YouthLink Scotland) and the Scottish Government have supported partners in local authority areas to implement NKBL as a local initiative. This support is now available to every local authority area in Scotland. Resources include online practitioner training packages, peer education training, educational toolkits for schools and youth work settings and a range of supporting resources from high-quality videos and animations to posters, leaflets, reports and evaluations. Over the past decade there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of people carrying knives, with the number of young people under 18 convicted of handling offensive weapons falling from 430 in 2007-08 to 91 in 2016-17.
Mentors in Violence Prevention
The Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) model is a tool to help tackle rape, dating violence, sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of violent and abusive behaviour. MVP aims to give young people, both male and female, the skills to safely intervene and prevent violence. Over recent years, the Scottish Government has expanded significantly its investment in the MVP. The coverage of the programme has increased and is now available in schools in 23 out of 32 local authority areas in Scotland. Evidence of the impact of MVP has been gathered through staff feedback, attitude questionnaires and focus groups. A National MVP Steering Group was established in 2016 to remove obstacles to the successful implementation of the programme. Year-on-year the programme is growing and in 2018-19 MVP will be delivered in 4 extra local authority areas as well as starting to adopt the programme in primary as well as secondary schools.
Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending
In September 2017, the Solicitor General for Scotland and then Cabinet Secretary for Justice announced the establishment of an expert working group on preventing sexual offending involving children and young people. The Group, chaired by former Crown Office Chief Executive, Catherine Dyer, brings together a range of interests including the Scottish Youth Parliament, Youthlink Scotland and Rape Crisis Scotland. The Group was established following the findings of research into an increase in reported sexual offending, including a rise in the number of young people affected both as victims and perpetrators of digitally enabled sexual crimes. The Group’s focus is on prevention, what actions would better prevent sexual crime involving children and young people, and how to mitigate the harm it causes. Its remit includes all sexual offending and harm, and there will be a particular focus on cyber-enabled offending involving children and young people. The Group is expected to report to Scottish Ministers in spring 2019.
CashBack for Communities Programme
The CashBack for Communities programme is a unique Scottish Government initiative, which takes funds recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and invests them back into communities. The Programme, which commenced in 2008, is designed to focus on positive outcomes for young people aged 10 to 25, and their communities. The Scottish Government is currently in year 2 of phase 4 of CashBack, which runs from April 2017 to end March 2020, with £17m of monies projected to be recovered from criminals being committed. This has an even stronger focus on helping tackle Scotland’s inequalities by raising the attainment, ambition and aspirations of young people across Scotland who are disadvantaged.
8.5 16 and 17 Year Olds in the Justice System – Diversion from Prosecution
Youth justice practice for 16 and 17 year olds sits within both children’s legislation and adult criminal processes in Scotland. An Early and Effective Intervention Forum was set up in July 2017 to consider best practice with reference to 16 and 17 years olds within the justice system. Information is being gathered around the use of early and effective intervention and diversion from prosecution for this group.
Most current youth justice diversion schemes adopt a deferred prosecution model and prosecution is suspended until the young person has successfully completed the diversion intervention. If successful then it would not lead to criminal conviction. However, a diversion from prosecution is regarded as an alternative to prosecution in terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and, as such, would be disclosable for a period of three months, after which time it would be considered spent. For the purposes of disclosure of criminal record information, a ‘relevant matter’ is either a conviction which is not a protected conviction or a caution which is not spent. A diversion from prosecution would not normally be disclosed after it was spent unless the police considered it to be ‘other relevant information’.
The number of diversion from prosecution cases commenced for 16 and 17 year olds increased from 142 in 2010-11 to 408 in 2016-17. A Diversion from Prosecution Group was convened in October 2017 to consider how to further increase the availability of diversion for 16 and 17 year olds. Guidance around Diversion from Prosecution for all people, including young people, is being considered.
In addition, a short-life working group has been created to consider 16 and 17 year olds in the hearing system (both those on offending and welfare concerns) as part of the Child Protection Improvement Programme. The group was asked to review both the measures available to protect 16 and 17 year olds and whether the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 should be amended to allow any young person aged 16 and 17 years old, including those not already on a Compulsory Supervision Order, to be referred to the Principal Reporter where there is a need for compulsory measures. The group is also looking at the ability of the hearing system to continue Compulsory Supervision Orders past a young person’s 16 birthday.
In very rare circumstances, it is necessary for a child to be detained in police custody. In terms of current operational practice, Police Scotland attempts to ensure that all children and young people are kept in custody for as short a time as possible.
Sections 50 and 51 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016, commenced on 25 January 2018, place a duty on Police Scotland not to detain a person (which includes a child) unnecessarily in custody and to consider a child’s wellbeing as a primary consideration when making decisions in relation to a child, including a decision whether or not to hold a child in custody. In addition, when a decision is taken to hold a child in police custody, section 52 of the Act requires that (in so far as reasonable practicable) the police must prevent the child from associating with any adult who is officially accused of committing an offence, unless a constable believes that it may be detrimental to the wellbeing of the child to prevent the child and adult from associating with one another.
Further provisions relating to children are contained within the current Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Bill. For example, where it is necessary to manage an immediate risk posed by a child, the police will have the power to take the child to a place of safety. This is a short-term measure to allow them to determine appropriate next steps for the care and protection of the child.
8.6 Sentencing of Under 18s
Despite actions focused on prevention and diversion from prosecution, a number of young people aged 12 and over will be the subject of judicial proceedings due to offending behaviour. With reference to sentencing, the independence of the judiciary is fundamental to the operation of the Scottish criminal justice system. In all cases, including those involving young people, it is for the court to determine the most appropriate sentence, taking account of the relevant circumstances and within the overall legal framework.
Evidence demonstrates that short-term custodial sentences are less effective than community sentences in reducing re-offending. Short custodial sentences undermine housing, employment and family connections that can help to reduce the risk of further offending. In the PfG 2018-19, the Scottish Government confirmed its intention to extend the current presumption against short sentences from 3 to 12 months. The Scottish Government will commence this change after relevant provisions of the Domestic Abuse Act 2018 are brought into force in 2019 so as to ensure that safeguards are in place for victims and children affected by domestic abuse.
The Scottish Sentencing Council was established in 2015 as an independent advisory body to promote consistency in sentencing, assist in the development of sentencing policy and to promote awareness and understanding of sentencing. In its 2015-18 Business Plan, the Sentencing Council committed to starting work to prepare a guideline on sentencing young people. The Council noted that sentencing of young people is a complex area. In preparing the guideline, the Council undertook to look at the potential effects of different types and levels of sentence on young people and the circumstances which are common to many young people who offend, including experience of trauma and bereavement. The Council hosted a sentencing and young people conference during 2017 to help inform planning for the guidelines. The Scottish Government will work with key stakeholders to consider any implications arising from the final publication of the guidelines.
Under section 207 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 (1995 Act), where a person aged 16 or over (but under the age of 21) commits an offence which is punishable by imprisonment, the court cannot impose imprisonment on that person but may impose a sentence of detention in a young offenders institution.
A child convicted of an offence in summary proceedings in the sheriff court may be ordered by the sheriff to be detained in such place as the local authority consider appropriate for a maximum period of one year (section 44 of the 1995 Act).
With reference to the most serious crimes, a child convicted on indictment may be sentenced to be detained in such place and on such conditions as the Scottish Ministers may direct (section 208 of the 1995 Act). In those circumstances, the child would be placed in a secure unit up to the age of 17 and, if their sentence went beyond that age, they would transfer to a Young Offenders Institution (YOI) and then to a prison on reaching 21. Section 205 of the 1995 Act provides that a person under the age of 18 who commits murder cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment but is sentenced to be detained without limit of time and in a place as directed by the Scottish Ministers.
Under section 51 of the 1995 Act, a child can be remanded in custody pending trial or sentence. In these circumstances, if the child is under 16, the court may order the child to be detained by the local authority in secure accommodation or in a suitable place of safety chosen by the local authority. If the child is 16 or over and subject to a Compulsory Supervision Order, the court may order the child to be detained in secure accommodation or a suitable place of safety by the local authority or may order the child to be detained in a prison or young offenders institution. If the child is 16 or over and not subject to a Compulsory Supervision Order, the court may order the child to be detained in a prison or young offenders institution.
8.7 Secure Care Accommodation
Secure accommodation is a form of residential care that restricts the freedom of children under the age of 18. It is for the small number of children who may be a significant risk to themselves, or others in the community. Their needs and risks can only be managed in secure care’s controlled settings. Secure care aims to provide intensive support, safe boundaries and a nurturing environment to help these highly vulnerable children re-engage and move forward positively in their communities.
The majority of young people placed in secure care are placed through the Children’s Hearings System as a result of a secure accommodation authorisation made in conjunction with, for example, a Compulsory Supervision Order. Secure placements, once made, are only for so long as it is in the best interests of the child. The suitability of the placement must be reviewed at intervals of not more than three months, or sooner if necessary or appropriate, in light of the child’s development.
Ministers have indicated that reduced reliance on the secure estate should be explored to meet the needs of young people and contribute to better outcomes. The Secure Care National Project involved an 18 month fact finding and stakeholder engagement programme and heard from a wide range of people and agencies including young people with secure care experience, practitioners, Chief Social Work Officers, and the third sector. In October 2016, an independent, analytical, practice focused review report, Secure Care in Scotland – Looking Ahead, was published.
Following from this research, the Scottish Ministers established a Secure Care Strategic Board to lead the development of a strategic approach to responses to children and young people in and on the edges of secure care in Scotland. The Board is giving consideration to the development of a strategic vision and direction for secure care in Scotland and the development of Secure Care National Standards to improve the experiences and outcomes for some of Scotland’s most vulnerable young people. Care experienced young people have a key role on the Board. Evidence from the Young People’s Voices research will also inform its work. The Board will report to Ministers shortly. Following which, consideration around the strategic vision of secure care will fall within the remit of the Independent Care Review.
8.8 Young Offenders Institutions
As noted above, there has been a substantial reduction in the numbers of children in custody in recent years. For example, on 30 June 2006 there were 223 children aged 16 and 17 in custody in Scotland and on 30 June 2017 that number had fallen to 51 (including one girl). Almost all young people in custody in Scotland are cared for at HMP&YOI Polmont, with the exceptions being small numbers of young women being cared for in HMP&YOI Grampian.
Scottish Ministers’ policy is that, whenever possible, children under the age of 16 are not held in either a YOI or Prison but serve their sentence in a secure unit. No child under the age of 16 has been detained in either a prison or a young offenders’ institution in Scotland in the last 8 years.
Young people aged 16 and 17 who are sentenced to detention in a YOI are held separately from those aged 18 and over, in recognition of the vulnerability and significant care requirements of these young people. There are, however, occasions where it has been determined to be in the child’s best interests that there should not be full separation. For example, there have recently been so few girls under age 18 in custody in Scotland (most often none and often only 1 or 2) that their full separation from those aged 18 and over would result in a greatly impoverished learning and social environment. In these cases, contacts are carefully considered and monitored, taking account of individual needs, circumstances and wellbeing.
The SPS Vision for Young People in Custody (2014) sets out the intention to use the time a young person spends in custody to enable them to prepare for a positive future. This has informed improvements during the reporting period including:
- Developing the range of activities available for young people in custody, to enable them to develop the skills, knowledge and attributes they will need for their lives in the community (examples include project-based educational activities, parenting, vocational training opportunities, etc.);
- major investment in the learning areas at HMP & YOI Polmont to improve the learning environment and provide new facilities for performing arts, media, inclusion and employability, for example;
- new individual planning processes for how the young person will use their time in custody;
- a focus on increasing levels of engagement by the young people in the activities on offer;
- providing support for transition to the community, especially for those who need it most; and
- introduction of Quality Indicators for self-evaluation within the YOI, to identify areas of good practice in the care and experiences of young people in custody and aspects which require improvement. Children and young people are participating in the SPS self-evaluation process to identify areas for further improvement.
The SPS is also continuing to prioritise the professional development of its staff and has recognised that those who work with young people in custody need special knowledge and skills because of the specific legal status, needs, developmental stage and circumstances of the young people in their care. Staff have therefore undertaken training to build their understanding of the rights, needs and vulnerabilities of the young people. Topics have included: Emotional and Social Wellbeing; Trauma, Bereavement and Loss; Learning Difficulties and Disabilities; and Adolescent Brain. SPS staff are also aware of Getting it right for every child, the Scottish Government’s approach to wellbeing. Future developments will take account of the Common Core of Skills, Knowledge & Understanding and Values for the Children’s Workforce in Scotland.
Healthcare services in custody are provided by NHSScotland, and NHS standards for health care provision, including primary care, apply within the prison setting. The Scottish Government expects health boards to act appropriately to meet these standards. A new joint Justice and Health Improvement Collaborative Board has been established to help oversee improvement in the delivery of health and justice outcomes, including meeting the needs of people in custody.
On 23 November 2018, Scottish Ministers announced an immediate review of the provision of mental health services and support for young people entering and in the care of HMP&YOI Polmont, including suicide prevention. The review, which will be undertaken by a mental health expert and HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland with other relevant agencies, is due to report in spring 2019. The review will include direct engagement with young people in HMP&YOI Polmont about their experiences of these services.
Removal from association
Rule 95 of the Prisons and Young Offenders Institutions (Scotland) Rules 2011 enables a Governor to remove a prisoner or young offender, including those aged 16 and 17 years old, from association with other prisoners or young offenders for an initial period of no more than 72 hours. The Governor can take this action where they are satisfied it is appropriate to do so to protect the interests of the individual or to ensure the safety of any other person or in order to maintain good order or discipline in the YOI. In addition, the Governor can order that a prisoner or young offender be accommodated in specified conditions (which could include removal from association) where a healthcare professional advises that it is appropriate to do so in order to protect the health or welfare of the individual or any other prisoner or young offender. The Rules provide important safeguards for persons removed from association which ensure that the reason for removal is clearly communicated to the person and that they are afforded the opportunity to make representations about their removal.
Whilst removed from association, there will normally be no unnecessary restrictions on their entitlements to visits, including legal visits, access to telephones and correspondence and exercise, unless their management plan or care plan considers it necessary. The focus throughout the period the person is removed from association will be to reintegrate them at the earliest and safest opportunity back into the mainstream population thus minimising any time spent separate from others. HM Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland inspects the arrangements for persons removed from association.
8.9 Management of the Prison Estate
All activity areas at HMP&YOI Polmont have been upgraded in the last 3 years to improve the experience of all young people to reflect the GIRFEC principles and the wellbeing indicators.
The Scottish Government is committed to developing a new model for the female custodial estate, with a smaller national women’s prison and up to 5 local community custody units (CCUs). This new model will provide trauma-based care and accommodation for women offenders.
The Scottish Government recognises that children may be upset and traumatised by separation from a parent; it may be difficult to establish or sustain bonds between children and their mother and this in turn may inhibit attachment, and affect the child’s development and mental health. In recognition of this, both the new national facility and the CCUs will be designed to incorporate accommodation that will support mothers and their children. Mothers will be provided with the opportunity to develop enhanced parenting skills, supporting positive links with their family and the local community. The Scottish Government aims to open the national prison and the first of the CCUs by December 2020.
8.10 Scottish Prison Service Family Strategy
Imprisonment damages families and family relationships. In partnership with Barnardo’s Scotland and Families Outside, the SPS has designed a strategy for working with men and women in its care as well as supporting their families and wider social networks. Considerable research has been carried out in recent years looking at the impact prison has, not only on people who find themselves sentenced to a period of imprisonment, but also those family members they leave behind in the community.
Individuals who offend are less likely to reoffend upon release from prison when they return to a supportive environment in their communities. That support is more likely to exist where families have been encouraged and supported to maintain effective and meaningful contact with their relative while in custody, particularly in the case of children who can be profoundly affected by the temporary absence of a parent/guardian. The SPS works collaboratively with key partners and stakeholders to deliver its Family Strategy, to help prisoners and families maintain meaningful contact and to involve families, where possible, in prisoners’ rehabilitation. Through the Strategy, SPS will actively promote the wellbeing and positive life outcomes for children affected by parental imprisonment.
Prison Visitors’ Centres
An estimated 20,000 children are affected by parental imprisonment in any year in Scotland. Imprisonment of a family member is recognised as an Adverse Childhood Experience with significant lifelong effects, including increased risk of both physical and mental health problems. The Scottish Government has provided £1.8m in additional funding over 2016-19 to improve and increase the provision of prison visitor centres as a way of mitigating the negative impact parental imprisonment can have on children.
Prison Visitors’ Centres are independent services provided by non-statutory, not for profit organisations independent of the Scottish Prison Service. They provide practical and emotional support to people visiting prisoners (with particular attention paid to supporting children), and help individuals engage successfully with other support services (i.e. health, welfare, family services etc.) which meet their needs. They also help voice the needs of families affected by imprisonment to the prison they work alongside. The National Performance Framework for Prison Visitors’ Centres in Scotland, published in April 2017, was developed by the National Prison Visitors Centre Steering Group in collaboration with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Prison Service.
8.11 Support for Victims and Witnesses
Children and young people come into contact with Scotland’s criminal justice system as both the victims and witnesses of crime. The Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service published in 2015 its Evidence and Procedure Review report. The report concluded that, despite legislative changes to improve the experiences of child and other vulnerable witnesses, there were clearly still instances where criminal justice processes were not best suited to their needs or to the interests of justice in enabling them to provide reliable and accurate evidence.
Following the publication of the subsequent Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service’s Evidence and Procedure Review – Joint Investigative Interviews Workstream Report in June 2017 – the Scottish Government is overseeing the implementation of its 33 recommendations. This involves collaborative working with key partners across the justice and child protection system to improve the training, guidance, technical aspects and facilities for Joint Investigative Interviews (JIIs) of child witnesses undertaken by police and social workers.
As well as work on JIIs, the Scottish Government is working with partners to expand the use of pre-recorded evidence. In March 2017, the Lord Justice Clerk, Lady Dorrian, published a High Court practice note to encourage greater use of taking of evidence from vulnerable witnesses by a commissioner in the High Court. Between 29 June and 29 September 2017, the Scottish Government consulted on possible legislative changes to further remove barriers to the taking of pre-recorded evidence from child and vulnerable witnesses in Scotland. The responses to this consultation have informed the development of policy proposals for the Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill which was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in June 2018. The Bill, if approved by Parliament, represents an important step towards the longer term vision of removing the need, where possible, for children to give evidence in court, whilst maintaining the rights of the accused.
The Scottish Government is also considering how the Barnahus concept could operate in Scotland. The Barnahus concept provides an immediate trauma-informed health, child protection and justice response to child victims and witnesses of serious and traumatic crimes, and is now in place in at least 9 EU countries.
8.12 Building Safer Communities
Working collaboratively with national and local partners, the Scottish Government is continuing to focus and align its efforts to Build Safer Communities. The Scottish Government supports Inspiring Scotland’s Link Up Programme, which helps to address the underlying causes of crime in deprived communities across Scotland. Link Up workers organise a range of activities, including for children and young people, to help increase social interaction and nurture positive relationships, with a particular focus on those who are most vulnerable and at risk of harm, crime and offending. The Link Up Programme is strongly aligned with the current focus on the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences.
The Scottish Government is also working with key partners including the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), the Scottish Community Safety Network, as well as COSLA and local partnership networks to collectively share messages and support initiatives and approaches that focus on reducing unintentional harm including among young children, particularly those under the age of five, who are more likely to experience unintentional harm. As part of this, the Scottish Government is developing an unintentional harm online hub that will gather and share examples of local activity that is directly reducing unintentional harm. This online tool will be launched in 2019, and will provide a number of examples that can support improving outcomes among young people.
8.13 Support for Refugees
Scotland has a long history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers and recognises it is a human right to be able to seek asylum in another country. Scottish Government policy recognises child refugees, in particular unaccompanied children, as a particularly vulnerable group of young people for whom support must be provided.
Scotland has received over 2,450 refugees under the Syrian Resettlement Programme into 31 of the 32 local authorities since October 2015. Around half of the refugees are children. The Scottish Government’s vision is for a Scotland where refugees are able to build a new life from the day they arrive and to realise their full potential with the support of mainstream services, and where they become active members of our communities with strong social relationships.
In March 2017, the Scottish Government and its partners concluded work on the first New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy with the publication of a final report. The Scottish Government then worked with its partners, including the Scottish Refugee Council and COSLA, to develop the second New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy 2018-2022, which was published in January 2018.
The Scottish Government has allocated £1m to projects which support the resettlement and integration of Syrian refugees in Scotland. It is also investing £0.94m from the equality budget in organisations working to support refugees and asylum seekers in 2018-19.
8.14 Children in Employment
In August 2017, the Scottish Government published Young Performers: A Guide for Parents and Guardians and Employment of Children: A Guide for Children. The publications were developed in collaboration with Clan Childlaw, as easy-read guidance for parents, guardians and children respectively. Guidance to assist local authorities and those individuals or bodies who are required to organise performances or licensed sporting or modelling activities involving children and young people, Getting it Right for Young Performers, is also available on the Scottish Government website.
“We have a choice. We have a voice. We have rights. We deserve them. Please respect them.”
Member of the Children’s Parliament, Rights Event, 2018