Protecting children: review of section 12 of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 and section 42 of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 - consultation

Consultation on potential changes to the criminal offences of cruelty to children and sexual abuse of trust of children.

Ministerial Foreword

This consultation seeks your view on potential changes to two criminal offences related to child protection, namely: the offence of child neglect currently legislated for in section 12 of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937; and the offence of sexual abuse of trust currently set out in section 42 of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009.

Neglect is a problem that requires a multi-dimensional and multi-agency response and this government remains committed to child protection being firmly embedded in our unique, Scottish approach to child wellbeing, ‘ Getting It Right For Every Child’ ( GIRFEC). GIRFEC is based on the principle that child wellbeing and protection is a collective responsibility and our clear commitment to reduce the impact of Early Adverse Childhood Experiences ( ACEs) is an integral part of this.

Sadly, promoting early intervention and prevention is not the whole picture and the Child Protection Improvement Programme ( CPIP) highlighted the need to examine a revised legislative response to child neglect that corresponds to our modern day understanding of neglect and the impact of emotional harm. We recognise that updating the section 12 offence is complex and involves consideration of a wide range of factors. The knowledge, perspective and views of others is essential in shaping a revised offence of child neglect. This consultation is therefore concerned with exploring the key issues both around the operation of the current offence, and what should be considered in reviewing section 12. It also seeks views on shaping a revised offence into a piece of effective, clear, coherent and accessible legislation to protect children from harm and neglect, fit for 21st century Scotland.

We are also seeking your views on whether to extended the current offence of sexual abuse of trust to cover, not just those who look after children in a range of institutional settings or live with/have parental responsibilities and rights for a child, but also other people undertaking regulated work with children outside an institutional setting, such as sports coaches.

Consultation is an essential part of the policy-making process. We will consider the views expressed in response to this consultation along with other available evidence to help inform the Scottish Government’s decisions. We have worked with key partners in developing this consultation, including two large stakeholder sessions. The feedback from those sessions has been reflected in this document.

I welcome the opportunity this consultation offers for public debate on these vital issues and I look forward to hearing your views.

Maree Todd
Minister for Children and Young People



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