Publication - Corporate report

Universal periodic review of human rights in the United Kingdom 2017: response to recommendations

Published: 8 Dec 2017
Justice Directorate
Part of:
Equality and rights, Law and order

The Scottish Government response to recommendations from the third Universal Periodic Review of the UK's overall human rights record in May 2017.

Universal periodic review of human rights in the United Kingdom 2017: response to recommendations
3. Dignity

3. Dignity

“ Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”

(Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

3.1 Torture [31]

The Scottish Government unreservedly condemns torture as an abhorrent violation of human dignity.

The Scotland Act 1998 requires that all legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament and all acts of members of the Scottish Government be compatible with rights contained in the ECHR (“the Convention rights”), Article 3 of which provides that no one shall be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The HRA requires every public authority in Scotland to act compatibly with the Convention rights and enables human rights cases to be taken in domestic courts.

The use of torture is a penal offence, as set out in section 134 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, [32] which provides that it may be punished with life imprisonment. The International Criminal Courts (Scotland) Act 2001 [33] provides for the offence of crimes against humanity. This offence includes within it conduct amounting to torture, and the maximum penalty available is up to 30 years imprisonment.

In relation to the operation of Police Scotland, section 48 of the Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Act 2012 [34] states: “The Scottish Ministers must make regulations as to the governance, administration and condition of service of constables and police cadets.” Section 52 of this Act provides that regulations under section 48 must establish, or provide for the establishment of, procedures for dealing with a constable whose standard of behaviour or performance is unsatisfactory.

3.2 Use of weapons by law enforcement officers [35]

In Scotland, just over 2% of police officers have authority to carry firearms. All Police Scotland Authorised Firearms Officers ( AFOs) are trained in the use of Conducted Energy Device CED ( TASER) as a Less Lethal Option to be used in support of armed operations. This training is delivered in line with current national UK practices and procedures as directed by the College of Policing and National Armed Policing. Further guidance is contained within the Authorised Professional Practise (Armed Policing), National Police Firearm Training Curriculum and the Statement of Intent on Police Use of Firearms and Less Lethal Weapons in Scotland. [36]

There is a wide range of scrutiny measures and oversight arrangements in place to hold the Chief Constable of Police Scotland to account for the actions that he takes and the decisions that he makes. These checks and balances include oversight by the Scottish Police Authority ( SPA), which reports annually to the Scottish Parliament, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland ( HMICS), the Police and Investigations Review Commissioner ( PIRC) and the Parliament’s Sub-Committee on Policing. The Chief Constable is required to report any incident where any person serving with Police Scotland has used a firearm to the PIRC. The PIRC will then carry out an independent assessment and decide if a full investigation is required, making recommendations as necessary. The PIRC publishes its reports on its website. [37]

3.3 Suicide prevention [38]

Data published in 2017 show that the suicide rate in Scotland fell by 17% in the period 2002-6 to 2012-16. [39]

The Scottish Government Suicide Prevention Strategy 2013-2016 [40] was developed on the basis of the growing evidence base about factors that can be related to death by suicide. One of the strategy’s five key themes is ‘Developing the Evidence base’, and the Scottish Government has committed to fund sources of research data that help to inform suicide prevention action, including the Scottish Suicide Information Database and the UK Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness. The Scottish Government also funds NHS Health Scotland’s National Suicide Prevention Programme, which includes a range of national and local actions to raise awareness of suicide and to encourage people to talk about their concerns or to ask if a friend or family member is feeling suicidal.

With partner agencies, the Scottish Government has developed a proposed Distress Brief Intervention ( DBI) to be piloted in four areas from 2017. This is aimed at intervening early with people who are in distress and potentially at risk of self-harm or suicide but who do not need urgent medical treatment. An evaluation report on the impact of DBI is expected in 2021.

With regard to suicide and self-harm in places of detention, see section 4.7.

3.4 Violence against women and girls [41]

UPR recommendations [42]

  • Continue efforts to tackle violence against women and girls, domestic violence and harmful practices.
  • Take measures to prevent secondary victimisation and the negative impact of domestic violence on children.
  • Dedicate sufficient resources at all levels to ensure effective implementation of the Istanbul Convention.

Every Minister in the Scottish Government takes tackling violence against women and girls seriously, and it is a priority area for the First Minister in the context of her wider ambitions to advance gender equality. The Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities has responsibility for overall strategy in this area, with a particular focus on violence prevention and building the capability of services, while the Cabinet Secretary for Justice oversees the development of a strong Justice response to supporting victims and tackling perpetrators.

Scottish Government strategy

The Scottish Government is implementing Equally Safe, [43] Scotland’s strategy to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls - working with stakeholders to prevent violence from occurring in the first place, build the capability and capacity of mainstream and specialist services to support survivors and those at risk, and strengthen the Justice response to victims and perpetrators.

The 2017-18 PfG contains a commitment to publish and implement a delivery plan for Equally Safe. Following a consultation on a draft version, Equally Safe - A Delivery Plan for Scotland’s Strategy to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls was published on 24 November 2017. [44]


The Scottish Government has introduced the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill, [45] which will, if passed by Parliament, provide for a specific offence of domestic abuse. The Bill introduces a new offence criminalising a course of abusive behaviour towards a partner or ex-partner, which will appropriately and effectively criminalise the type of pernicious coercive and controlling behaviour that can constitute domestic abuse. The new offence will cover all the types of behaviour that can constitute domestic abuse, including psychological harm. While physical harm and overt threats can be prosecuted using, for example, common law assault and the offence of threatening or abusive behaviour, psychological harm can be very challenging to prosecute using existing laws.

The following provisions of the Abusive Behaviour and Sexual Harm (Scotland) Act 2016 [46] came into force on 24 April 2017:

  • the introduction of a ‘statutory domestic abuse aggravator’ to ensure courts take domestic abuse into account when sentencing offenders
  • power for courts to make non-harassment orders in cases where they cannot do so at present
  • a requirement for judges to give juries specific directions when dealing with sexual offence cases to help improve access to justice for victims
  • the extension of Scottish courts’ extra-territorial jurisdiction over sexual offences committed against children to cover the other jurisdictions of the UK

The Act also created a specific offence of sharing private intimate images without consent (commonly known as ‘revenge porn’), with a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, which came into force on 3 July 2017. Through the work of the Equally Safe Justice Expert Group, the Scottish Government is looking at both medium and longer term improvements that can be made to the justice system for all victims of this type of violence, including domestic abuse victims and their children.

Raising awareness

The Scottish Government undertook a publicity campaign to coincide with the commencement of the offence criminalising the non-consensual sharing of intimate images in the 2016 Act. [47] The campaign aimed both to raise awareness of the new offence and to challenge “victim blaming” attitudes.

Additional funding of £30,000 (from the £20 million Violence against Women and Girls Justice Fund) was allocated to Rape Crisis Scotland to develop a campaign to increase public understanding of responses to rape. [48] The campaign complements the jury directions provisions introduced by the 2016 Act, which introduced a requirement for judges to give directions to juries on how people may respond to becoming a victim of rape, which are designed to ensure any pre-conceived views about how someone who has been raped should react do not influence how a jury reaches a decision in a case.


In the face of significant austerity, equality funding has been held in Scotland at similar levels since 2012. The Scottish Government is investing significant levels of funding to tackle violence against women and girls, including nearly £30 million over 2017-20 from the Equality budget. This includes direct provision for front line domestic abuse and sexual assault services, as well as funding for the National Domestic Abuse, Forced Marriage and Rape Crisis Helplines. The Scottish Government has also invested an additional £20 million over 2015-18 from Justice budgets, which includes increased support for advocacy provision.

Child victims

Equally Safe states that the Scottish Government has a responsibility to make sure that the rights of all children are protected, including their right to have a say in all matters affecting them, and to create an environment that is safe for children and young people to grow up. In the context of gender-based violence, children and young people must be regarded as ‘victims/survivors’ with the ability to access services in their own right and to be recognised as service users with an individual and collective voice in relation to the services they receive.

The Scottish Government is working closely with children’s organisations to ensure that the Equally Safe Delivery Plan reflects the need to ensure children are protected from domestic abuse, and is continuing to invest resources in a number of services across Scotland that support children who have experienced domestic abuse.

The Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Bill will, if passed, provide for a statutory aggravation to the offence of domestic abuse that the perpetrator involved a child in the perpetration of the abuse, directed behaviour at a child in committing the offence, or that a child saw or heard incidents of abusive behaviour, or was present when they took place. Where the aggravation is proven, the court will be required to take this into account in sentencing the offender.

The Scottish Government recognises the value in approaches such as the “Safe and Together” model, which can offer support to non-abusing parents in line with the principles of Equally Safe. In partnership with Barnardos and others in the Safe and Together Consortium, the Scottish Government is exploring what can be done to support local authorities to embed the model’s principles and produce a strong evidence-base in Scotland, which will create a change in practice and better inform those who work with survivors and children.

Prosecuting offenders

Police Scotland has established a National Domestic Abuse Taskforce to target the most prolific perpetrators, and the Crown Office has a dedicated National Prosecutor for Domestic Abuse. A new Joint Protocol has been published, which commits Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service ( COPFS) to a consistent and robust approach to domestic abuse, and recognises the significant and enduring impact that domestic abuse can have on victims and children.

Support for victims

There are currently 477 refuge spaces in Scotland for women and their children affected by domestic abuse.

Legal aid is available to victims of domestic and gender-based violence seeking protection through civil actions, where they meet the statutory eligibility criteria. There is no residency test and no requirement to demonstrate that domestic abuse has taken place. In criminal cases, the state investigates offences and prosecutes alleged offenders. Victims of domestic and gender-based violence have the status of ‘complainer’ and can access advice and assistance on the criminal process.

In addition to the general availability of publicly-funded legal assistance, the Scottish Government has provided funding, through the Scottish Legal Aid Board ( SLAB), to support the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre, which offers free legal information and advice to women who have experienced gender-based violence, including a national helpline. The Scottish Government has also made available publicly funded legal assistance for those seeking representation in recovery proceedings where sensitive records are sought, following the judgment in WF v Scottish Ministers [2016] CSOH 27.

The Scottish Government’s Justice Directorate commissioned a national scoping exercise of advocacy services relating to the criminal justice system for victims of violence against women and girls. [49] The exercise included advocacy services for victims of domestic abuse, prostitution, human trafficking, rape and sexual assault, and advocacy services available for children and for men where these may have an impact on women’s services.

The Scottish Government funds a number of women’s support organisations that provide specialist services for black and ethnic minority women, for instance Shakti, Saheliya, Kenyan Women in Scotland Association ( KWISA) and Community Infosource. These community based organisations work to support women affected by so-called honour-based violence, including FGM, forced marriage and domestic abuse. The Scottish Government is working with CEMVO Scotland to facilitate an ethnic minority women’s event, which aims to identify specific barriers experienced by minority ethnic communities with regard to gender-based violence, so these can be accounted for in Equally Safe.

No recourse to public funds ( NRPF)

The Scottish Government welcomed the Equalities and Human Rights Committee’s ( EHRiC) report, Hidden Lives – New Beginnings: Destitution, asylum and insecure immigration status in Scotland. [50] The Destitute Domestic Violence Concession, which was introduced in 2012, increases front-line service providers’ capacity to support women who are affected by the NRPF rule. However, as immigration is reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government’s options for helping those affected are limited. The Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities has written to Brandon Lewis MP, Minister of State for Immigration, in relation to recommendations from the EHRiC inquiry.

Istanbul Convention

The Scottish Government was active in pressing the UK Government to set out a clear timetable for ratifying the Istanbul Convention, and welcomed the passage of the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Act 2017. As stated previously, the Scottish Government is actively working towards compliance with the Convention in Scotland and plans to bring forward a report setting out progress on this.

3.5 Forced marriage and female genital mutilation [51]

UPR recommendations [52]

  • Strengthen the legislative framework by including penal sanctions for perpetrators of acts of forced marriage and non-protection against female genital mutilation

Forced marriage

The Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011 [53] introduced a civil Forced Marriage Protection Order, breach of which is a criminal offence. From 30 September 2014, section 122 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 made it a criminal offence to force a person into marriage in Scotland. The Scottish Government continues to fund a range of specialist organisations that provide support and assistance to those affected or who may be affected by forced marriage, and has commissioned independent research into forced marriage in Scotland. Findings from the report Understanding forced marriage in Scotland (January 2017) [54] will inform future thinking.

Female Genital Mutilation

Scotland’s National Action Plan to Prevent and Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation ( FGM) 2016-2020 [55] sets out an agreed range of actions and associated activities to be taken forward by the Scottish Government and its partners to prevent and ultimately eradicate FGM. A multi-agency National Implementation Group, which includes statutory and third sector and community-based organisations, is overseeing the implementation and monitoring progress. A ‘Year One Update’ will be published later this year.

To support the action plan, over £271,620 has been invested (2017-18) and the Scottish Government will continue to invest a similar amount over the period 2017-20. Multi-agency guidance will be published in 2017, setting out how agencies, individually and together, can protect girls and young women from FGM, and how to respond appropriately to survivors.

FGM has been unlawful in Scotland since 1985. The Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation (Scotland) Act 2005 [56] re-enacted the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 and extended protection by making it a criminal offence to have FGM carried out either in Scotland or abroad by giving those offences extra-territorial powers. Amendments made by the Serious Crime Act 2015 closed a loophole in the 2005 Act to extend the reach of the extra-territorial offences to habitual (as well as permanent) UK residents.

All referrals made to the police from partner agencies in relation to concerns for girls who were at risk of harm from FGM have been fully investigated and no criminality has been found.

The Scottish Government has been looking closely at the legislative provisions in the Serious Crime Act 2015 (England and Wales) (Part 5, Sections 71-75). The Scottish Ministers are considering next steps.

3.6 Child neglect, sexual exploitation and abuse [57]

UPR recommendations [58]

  • Develop and implement comprehensive multi-sectoral strategies on child exploitation and abuse
  • Complete the investigation on numerous cases of sexual violence against children perpetrated by high level officials and bring the perpetrators to justice

Child sexual exploitation

An updated National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation [59] was developed with partners including local authorities, Police Scotland, health services and the third sector to focus on prevention, providing support to those at risk of or experiencing sexual exploitation, bringing perpetrators to justice and reducing cultural and social barriers to preventing and tackling child sexual exploitation ( CSE). Actions have included developing a national definition of CSE; funding to third sector organisations to support victims and those identified as vulnerable; funding for organisations working with perpetrators; and CSE awareness-raising campaigns. The Scottish Government continues to work with the National Child Sexual Exploitation Group on the implementation of actions.

In 2015, Police Scotland launched a National Child Abuse Investigation Unit ( NCAIU) to provide local policing teams with support for investigations into reports of complex child abuse and neglect, including child sexual exploitation and on line child abuse.

In 2009, the COPFS established the National Sexual Crimes Unit ( NSCU), which specialises in the investigation and prosecution of serious sexual crimes across Scotland. All cases involving serious sexual offences are reported to NSCU for instructions. This team of experienced Crown Counsel directs criminal investigations from the earliest stages, providing advice and expertise on all aspects of the investigation and preparation of cases. It also prosecutes sexual crimes in the High Court.

Internet safety

Following work across government and in consultation with external stakeholders, an updated Child Internet Safety Action Plan [60] was published in April 2017, linking child protection with the digital participation and cyber resilience strategies and work being taken forward in schools. It sets out a number of actions to improve internet safety, including equipping children and young people themselves to stay safe online; supporting professionals, parents and carers; continuing to work with digital and social media providers to ensure children are not exposed to harm; and deterring potential perpetrators from committing abuse online. The Scottish Government has also invested in a number of programmes and initiatives that promote internet safety for children and young people.


Section 12 of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937 [61] is the criminal legislation under which child cruelty is prosecuted. Since the offence was drafted, understanding of the impact of child neglect and emotional and psychological abuse has developed significantly. As part of the Child Protection Improvement Programme ( CPIP), the Scottish Government has committed to holding a formal public consultation in 2017 on section 12 to explore the limitations of the current offence and the scope of a reframed offence.

Data collection

The Scottish Government has committed to establishing a Child Protection Data and Evidence Hub in order to develop a more co-ordinated strategic approach to share learning and improve use of evidence in practice.

Child Abuse

As part of CPIP, the Scottish Government will implement recommendations from the Child Protection Systems Review, and publish a new national child protection policy, including a National Child Abuse Prevention Plan by March 2018.

Historic abuse

Following an InterAction dialogue with survivors of in-care abuse and former providers of care in 2012, an Action Plan on Justice for Victims of Historic Abuse of Children in Care [62] was developed with two main recommendations: acknowledgement and apology (including commemoration), and accountability (reparation, inquiry and access to justice).

The Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry, chaired by Lady Anne Smith, is looking into abuse of children in care and is expected to report within four years of starting work on 1 October 2015. The first phase of public hearings started on 31 May 2017 and ended on 12 July. This phase included hearing evidence from expert witnesses, Scottish Government, survivor groups and care providers. Phase 2 will begin in November 2017 and will examine evidence it has gathered relating to residential child care establishments run by Catholic Orders.

On 29 September 2016 Future Pathways, Scotland’s In Care Survivor Support Fund, was launched. The fund, which is open to individuals who were abused whilst in care in Scotland, co-ordinates access to and delivery of resources, integrated care and support tailored to the needs of the individual. Additionally, since 2009, the Scottish Government has invested £9 million in third and voluntary sector organisations which offer a wide range of local services across Scotland that support survivors of child abuse. The Survivor Scotland Strategic Outcomes and Priorities 2015-2017 [63] sets out a clear strategy and broad vision to support survivors of child abuse, and includes a wide range of actions covering prevention, awareness raising, training, innovation across third and voluntary sector practice, as well as care, treatment and support where it is needed.

Limitation period

The Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2005 [64] removed remaining time limits for the prosecution of ‘historic’ sexual offences against children. The Limitation (Childhood Abuse) (Scotland) Act 2017 [65] removed the three year limitation period for civil actions arising out of childhood abuse (defined to include sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, and abuse which takes the form of neglect).

3.7 Physical punishment of children [66]

UPR recommendations [67]

  • Prohibit corporal punishment, including in the family, schools and educational institutions, and all other institutions and forms of alternative care; repeal all legal defences, such as “reasonable chastisement”.

The existing legislation in Scotland makes it illegal to punish children by shaking, hitting on the head or using an implement. The Scottish Government is opposed to physical punishment of children and intends to support a proposed member’s Bill in the Scottish Parliament. This would remove an existing defence which parents and carers can use, and would have the effect of banning all forms of physical punishment of children.

With regard to support for parents and carers, see section 5.1.

3.8 Armed forces - recruitment of young people [68]

UPR recommendations [69]

  • Withdraw interpretive declaration to Article 1 of CRC protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and unconditionally forbid children from taking part in hostilities.

The UK Government is responsible for recruitment to the armed forces. Armed Forces (Enlistment) Regulations 2009 ( SI 2009/2057) prohibit persons under the age of 18 from joining the Armed Forces without the consent of prescribed persons; in Scotland, those with parental responsibilities. All Service personnel have a statutory right to claim discharge up to their 18th birthday, and the right of discharge is made clear to all Service personnel on joining the Armed Forces.

While defence policy is reserved to the UK Government, wellbeing of young people is not. The Scottish Government expects the Ministry of Defence to comply fully with its obligations to ensure that those recruited to the armed forces, including those from Scotland, do not see active service in conflict before the age of 18.

3.9 Human trafficking [70]

UPR recommendations [71]

  • Continue efforts to combat human trafficking, increasing protection and support for victims, particularly children, and ensuring proportionate punishment for perpetrators
  • Adopt a comprehensive (victim-centred) national framework to prevent trafficking in women and girls
  • Strengthen the National Referral Mechanism to identify and assist victims of human trafficking


The Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015 [72] consolidates and strengthens criminal law against human trafficking and exploitation. The offences in the Act now carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. It also introduces trafficking and exploitation prevention and risk orders.

The Act takes forward improved protection for victims, through the Lord Advocate’s instructions on the presumption against the prosecution of victims of trafficking and exploitation in certain circumstances, and by placing a duty on the Scottish Ministers to provide support and assistance for adult victims of human trafficking.

The first provisions of the Act came into force on 31 May 2016 and most of the remaining provisions will do so in 2018.


The 2015 Act makes it more straightforward for Scotland’s law enforcement agencies to take action but trafficking is a complex crime, with control and coercion often exerted by traffickers over victims in subtle and hidden ways. Victims can be highly traumatised and can take time to fully describe what has happened to them and who was involved. These factors can combine to make building a case a time-consuming process. It is also important to remember that:

  • for each proceeding there could be multiple charges and multiple victims
  • there may be cases where warrants are outstanding for accused persons
  • there may be cases that have been deserted with a view to re-raise at a later date
  • there may be cases that are currently on-going or not been prosecuted yet
  • there will be situations where accused have been reported to the COPFS for human trafficking offences but prosecuted for offences other than human trafficking offences

Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy

The 2015 Act requires the development of a Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy. This was laid before the Scottish Parliament on 30 May 2017 and will be reviewed every three years. [73] The Strategy has been produced by working closely with stakeholders, including victims of trafficking and exploitation, and implementation is being taken forward in conjunction with stakeholders. Key elements of the Strategy are to identify victims and support them to safety and recovery; identify perpetrators and disrupt their activity; and address the issues that foster trafficking and exploitation.

Actions contained within the Strategy include the development of a public awareness raising campaign of the issue of human trafficking; raising awareness with those who may encounter potential victims in the course of their work; developing clear processes and pathways for victims to access support; making full use of the powers available to disrupt the activities of perpetrators; and supporting UK-wide activity resulting from the Transparency in Supply Chains ( TISC) duty under the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015.

The public awareness raising campaign was launched by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice on 29 August 2017 [74] and highlighted that human trafficking and exploitation can happen anywhere, including in small towns and villages in Scotland and to anyone, if they are vulnerable.

Support for adult and child victims

The Scottish Government currently provides funding of nearly £800,000 to two organisations (Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance ( TARA) and Migrant Help) to provide specialist support to adult victims, and of £70,000 per annum to the Anchor service to provide psychological trauma support to adult victims.

On 13 June 2017, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice announced that regulations would increase the length of time for which adult victims of human trafficking and exploitation recovered in Scotland would be provided with support from 45 to 90 days.

Children are supported through the child protection system and eligible children are given the additional support of an independent child trafficking guardian. Section 4 of the Trafficking and Exploitation Strategy makes clear that local Child Protection Committees should ensure that there are specific and appropriate arrangements on child trafficking and exploitation in place through guidance, protocols or procedures, which are known and complemented by relevant services.

In 2013, the Scottish Government published Inter-agency Guidance for Child Trafficking, [75] which provides information and guidance to all members of the children’s workforce so that professionals and others are able to identify child victims to ensure they can receive appropriate support and protection. The Scottish Government has already invested in an additional guardianship support service for unaccompanied child trafficking victims. However, where a child for whom no one in the UK holds parental rights or responsibilities has been, or is suspected of having been, trafficked, the Act makes provision for an independent child trafficking guardian to be appointed to provide additional assistance and support. A consultation with stakeholders will take place this year regarding the roles and responsibilities of this new guardianship service, which will work alongside existing statutory provision.

The 2015 Act also requires relevant authorities to presume that a victim of human trafficking is a child in circumstances where the age of a victim is uncertain but there are reasonable grounds to believe that the victim is a child (under 18 years of age). The victim is presumed to be a child for the purpose of receiving immediate age appropriate support and services until their age is formally established. To reflect the change in legislation, the 2012 Age Assessment Guidance for social workers is being revised. The Scottish Government is also seeking to bring forward guidance on the use of sections 22 and 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 regarding provision of accommodation and support.

Under section 8 of the 2015 Act, the Lord Advocate’s instructions for prosecutors state that: if there is sufficient evidence that a child aged 17 or under has committed an offence, and there is credible and reliable information to support the fact that the child is a victim of human trafficking or exploitation, and the offending took place in the course of, or as a consequence of, being the victim of human trafficking or exploitation, then there is a strong presumption against prosecution of that child for that offence.

Implementation of those actions specific to children will be supported and overseen by the Child Trafficking Strategy Group. Action to tackle child trafficking cuts across existing Scottish Government strategies and is referenced in the update of the National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation and the National Action Plan on Child Internet Safety in Scotland (see section 3.6). These are all workstreams included within the current CPIP.

The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 obliges Police Scotland to direct victims of crime towards the Victims’ Code for Scotland, [76] which contains information about compensation and is available in a number of languages. In addition, victim support organisations routinely assist victims in understanding the support that may be available. In Scotland, the position of victims of trafficking in criminal proceedings and their access to legal aid is no different to that of other victims of crime with an interest in a criminal case. Access to legal aid on some human trafficking matters is not contingent on formal recognition of victim status. Beyond the provision of legal aid, assistance can be provided through grant funding programmes. An assessment of the provision of legal aid to victims of trafficking was recently carried out by SLAB.

The Scottish Government is committed to partnership working with the UK Government, police, prosecutors, support agencies and others to combat human trafficking and exploitation. In addition, the remit of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner covers the whole of the UK.