Role of the Reporter
The role of the Reporter is to:
- Receive referrals for children and young people who are believed to require compulsory measures of supervision.
- Draft a statement of grounds and decide whether the child or young person needs to be referred to a Hearing.
- Provide administration to Children’s Hearings and keep a record of proceedings at Hearings.
- Maintain the independence of Hearings and support fair process.
- Conduct Children’s Hearings court proceedings.
The Reporter’s primary function is to receive referrals for children and young people who are believed to require compulsory measures of supervision. The Reporter then decides whether the child or young person should be referred to a Children’s Hearing.
More detail on the role of the Reporter can be found here and here. There is also a helpful guidance document ‘Guidance on Referral to the Reporter – Information for Partners’.
Statement of Grounds
If the Reporter decides that a child or young person needs to go to a Hearing, the Reporter draws up a statement of grounds. A statement of grounds can include if the child or young person:
- Suffers from lack of parental care.
- Is falling into bad associations or is exposed to moral danger.
- Is beyond the control of their parent/carer (relevant person).
- The child, or another child in the same household, has been the victim of an offence such as sexual abuse, assault or neglect.
- Is a member of the same household as a person who has offended against a child or young person.
- Has failed to attend school without reasonable excuse.
- Has committed an offence.
- Has abused solvents, or misused drugs or alcohol.
When a referral has been received, the Reporter has a legal duty to carry out an investigation to establish what evidence appears to exist, which may prove that one or more of the statement of grounds is established.
On non offence (care and protection) grounds, the evidential standard is the civil standard of balance of probabilities. For offence grounds, the Children’s Hearings System operates on the same evidential standard as the criminal justice system (beyond reasonable doubt) therefore, if there is insufficient evidence, the matter cannot be taken further by the Reporter.
If there is sufficient evidence, the Reporter has a duty to examine the child or young person’s circumstances to allow them to determine the best course of action for the individual child or young person. This includes obtaining reports from schools, social work or other agencies involved with the child or young person or their family, such as doctors and health visitors.
Every child and young person is dealt with on an individual basis, and the Reporter’s decision will depend on the circumstances of the case and the information available. The Reporter will examine the child or young person’s background, taking into account their family circumstances and any previous behaviour or offences.
Following the investigation, the Reporter can make one of a number of decisions, including referring a child or young person to a Hearing. Where there is no requirement for compulsory measures of supervision, children and young people can be dealt with by a variety of options, including: restorative justice, voluntary measures such as tailored programmes to tackle their behaviour.
These are all available options depending on the individual child or young person, their needs and circumstances.
Children and young people can be referred to services like this either on a compulsory basis following a Children’s Hearing, or on a voluntary basis (without proceeding to a Hearing) with the support of their family/guardians and usually social work services.
It is only through the Reporter that children and young people are referred to a Hearing. A child or young person will only be referred to a Children’s Hearing if:
- The Reporter is satisfied that one or more grounds for referral exists (stated in section 67 of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011) and,
- There is a need for compulsory measures of supervision (to either protect the child or young person, and/or address their behaviour).
It is the responsibility of the Reporter to notify children, young people and families and any relevant persons of Hearings, and to provide them with all the relevant paper work. Once a child or young person is referred to a Hearing, the role of the Reporter is to keep a report of the proceedings and support fair process without undermining the decision making function of the Hearing.
The Reporter does not provide legal advice to the Hearing or to children, young people and families.
Where a child or young person is referred to a Children’s Hearing and the statement of grounds are not accepted, or the child or young person does not understand due to their age or ability, the Hearing can direct the Reporter to make an application to the Sheriff to decide whether the grounds are established. The Reporter will conduct the case in court, including leading evidence before the Sheriff. If the Sheriff is satisfied that the grounds are correct, the Reporter will arrange another Hearing to decide whether the child or young person requires compulsory measures.
The Reporter is also responsible for conducting any appeals against Children’s Hearing decisions in court.
Practice Directions – Children’s Hearings (Scotland) 2011 Act
These are the Practice Directions issued by the Principal Reporter to Reporters in relation to the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011.
Practice Direction 02 – Transitional Provisions
Practice Direction 03 – Relevant Persons
Practice Direction 04 – Non-Disclosure
Practice Direction 05 – Receipt and Registration of Referrals
Practice Direction 06 – Decision Making Framework
Practice Direction 07 – Statement of Grounds
Practice Direction 08 – Child Protection Orders etc
Practice Direction 09 – Children in Custody
Practice Direction 11 – Role of the Reporter at a hearing or Pre-hearing Panel
Practice Direction 12 – Pre-hearing Panels
Practice Direction 13 – Attendance at Hearings
Practice Direction 14 – Notifications and Papers
Practice Direction 15 – Grounds Hearings
Practice Direction 16 – Review Hearings
Practice Direction 17 – Contact Direction Review Hearings
Practice Direction 18 – Completion of Forms
Practice Direction 19 – Orders Warrants and Measures
Practice Direction 20 – Secure accommodation
Practice Direction 21 – Safeguarders
Practice Direction 22 – Legal Aid
Practice Direction 23 – Court Applications
Practice Direction 24 – Appeals
Practice Direction 25 – Adoption and Permanence Orders
Practice Direction 26 – Movement Restriction Conditions
Practice Direction 27 – Cross Border Issues
Practice Direction 28 – Translation and Interpretation for Referrals and Children’s Hearings
Practice Direction 29 – Recovery of Evidence in Court Proceedings