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Information for parents & carers

What is a Children’s Reporter?
The Children’s Reporter is the first contact a child or family will have with the Children’s Hearings System. They will investigate your child’s case by getting information about your child from a number of sources – they might speak to a social worker if your child has one, or their teacher. You can also provide the Children’s Reporter with information about your child.  After that the Reporter will decide if your child has to attend a Children’s Hearing.

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What is a referral?
A referral is information received by the Children's Reporter from anybody about a child or young person who may be in need of compulsory measures of supervision (legal intervention) to help them address their needs and/or behaviour. Most of the information about children and young people is received from the police, social work departments or schools. However, parents, family members, carers or any concerned member of the public can contact the Children's Reporter if they have concerns about a young person and their circumstances.

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What is a Children’s Hearing?
A Children's Hearing is a legal meeting arranged to consider and make decisions about children and young people who are having problems in their lives and who may need legal steps to be taken to help them. Children's Hearings are held in private and only those people who have a legal right to be there, or are allowed to be there by the chairperson, will be present.

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Appointment of a Safeguarder
A Safeguarder is a person who is appointed to make sure that a child or young person’s interests are looked after. A Safeguarder can be appointed by either a Children’s Hearing or a Sheriff. Not all children and young people need to have a Safeguarder.

Sometimes if the people at a Hearing have very different views to each other, or the Panel Members feel they need more information to allow them time to make a decision, they will appoint a Safeguarder. A Safeguarder is separate from the social worker, Children’s Reporter and the Panel Members, and would speak to everyone involved especially the child or young person, to help them build up a better picture. Sometimes they will write a report for the Panel Members and attend the next Hearing.

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Who will be at the Children’s Hearing?
  • Your child, unless the Hearing has agreed that they do not need to attend,
  • The people who look after your child,
  • Three Panel Members who will make the decisions.  These are trained volunteers who want to make the best decisions to help vulnerable children and young people,
  • The Children’s Reporter who will record what has been decided,
  • A social worker,
  • There may be a person called a Safeguarder – they are there to help the panel make the right decisions for the child.

If your child wants to they can bring someone along like a family friend or teacher.

If you are a relevant person you can bring someone along as a representative to assist you.

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What is a Pre Hearing Panel?
This is sometimes arranged when the Reporter decides to arrange a Children’s Hearing for a child or young person. Children and young people, as well as their parents/carers can attend Pre Hearing Panels if they wish but do not have to. Even if they don't attend they are entitled to have their views about the issue(s) being considered heard.

The Pre Hearing Panel takes place before the Hearing and is where three Panel Members meet to consider certain issues in advance of the Hearing. This means they might talk about:

• whether to excuse a child, young person or relevant person from attending the Children’s Hearing.
• whether to deem (make) someone a Relevant Person.
• whether it is likely the children's hearing will consider making a Compulsory Supervision Order with secure accommodation authorisation. 

After the Pre Hearing Panel, the Children’s Reporter will write to you to tell what has been decided.

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Being a Relevant Person
Under the new law the following people are automatically considered to be a Relevant Person:

~ Any parent (whether or not they have parental rights or responsibilities) 

~ Any other person who has parental rights and responsibilities (obtained through the courts).

This means that other people, for example foster carers and kinship carers, are not automatically considered to be Relevant Persons, even if they were Relevant Persons at previous Hearings under the old law.

However, they can be deemed to be a Relevant Person. This is a decision that must be made by a Pre Hearing Panel or a Children’s Hearing. The Reporter has no power to make someone a Relevant Person. The test for being deemed a Relevant Person is that the individual has, or recently has had, significant involvement in the upbringing of the child.

Some children and young people on Supervision may have been with relatives or foster carers for a number of years in a stable placement. This process should not been seen as a threat to that arrangement or to the placement. In the vast majority of these cases, the granting of Relevant Person status is likely to be a formality.

There is a right of appeal against the decision to deem someone a Relevant Person. The child, any Relevant Person and the individual concerned can appeal against the decision to make or not to make the individual a Relevant Person. In such an appeal, the Sheriff would consider if the person met the test or not. A person cannot appeal simply because they do not like the individual or wish them to be involved in the child/young person’s life.  

There does not need to be a Pre Hearing Panel for every subsequent Hearing. Once the Panel Members have decided that an individual is a Relevant Person, they retain that status for future Hearings, though it can be reviewed if the person no longer has, or recently has had, significant involvement in the upbringing of the child.

Some family members or foster carers may only be looking after a child or young person for a short period or on a temporary basis. They may not want to be considered to be a Relevant Person or they may not meet the test of significant involvement. They may still be able to attend the Hearing as a representative of the child/young person or a Relevant Person. The Panel Members also have discretion to allow them to attend.

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What will happen at the Children’s Hearing?
Each Hearing comprises of three Panel Members – all trained volunteers from the local community. The child and their family or carers are central participants in the Hearing. The role of the Reporter is to attend the Hearing to support fair process. The Reporter takes no part in the Panel Members’ deliberations.

The Panel Members will listen to everyone and consider all the information The Hearing will then make a decision and the Panel Members must give reasons for their decision. Both the child and their carer(s) will be sent a copy of the decision and reasons for the decision in writing.

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What is a Compulsory Supervision Order?
A Compulsory Supervision Order can be made at a Children's Hearing. It can contain conditions stating where the child is to live and other conditions with which they must comply.

The local authority is responsible for making sure that what is stated in the Compulsory Supervision Order is happening, and that the child is getting the help that they need. A Compulsory Supervision Order has no set time limit, but should last only as long as is necessary. It must be reviewed by a Children's Hearing at least once a year when it can be continued, varied or stopped.

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What if I’m not happy with the decision of the Hearing - can I appeal?
You have the right to appeal to the Sheriff against the decision of your child’s Hearing.

A child, young person or their parent/carer may appeal against the decision. You cannot appeal a decision simply because you disagree with the decision. There has to be a reason in law for the basis of any appeal. If you disagree with the decision of a Hearing, you should consult a solicitor as soon as possible, because you may have the right to appeal.

A Safeguarder who may be appointed to you or your child’s case also has the right to appeal against the decision, and does so on behalf of the child. In appealing, you have to satisfy the Sheriff that the Children’s Hearing was not justified - for example, in making a Compulsory Supervision Order.

(Safeguarders are independent of the Children’s Reporter and the local authority social work department. Their task is to represent what is in the child or young person’s best interests.)

Any appeal should be in writing to the Sheriff at the Sheriff Court, and must be made within three weeks of the decision.

At the appeal, the Sheriff will hear what you have to say and he will also hear the Reporter, and possibly your child. The Sheriff may summon the people who prepared the reports about your child for the Hearing if he/she thinks that would be useful.

If the Sheriff allows your appeal, there are a number of options:

• Discharge the case altogether.
• Send it back to the Hearing for reconsideration.
• Make a Compulsory Supervision Order which is different from the one which the Hearing had decided upon.

If your appeal fails, the decision made by the Hearing will remain unchanged.

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Can the police retain my child's DNA?
Police are now able to retain the DNA of certain children and young people who have committed an offence.

Under the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010, which was approved by the Scottish Parliament, children who are deemed to have committed a "relevant offence" will now have their DNA and fingerprints retained in most cases for three years (in some cases it can be retained beyond this period).

The change will apply to children referred to the Children’s Hearings System for specified serious sexual and violent offences and where these grounds are accepted or established.

The change came into affect on 15th April 2011.

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What is the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974?
This section explains how the Act may affect you or your child in the future.

Is the appearance of my child at a Children’s Hearing a ‘criminal conviction’?
Normally no, the appearance is in private and the press, even if present (which is a rarity) cannot publish details of any child or young person. Children and their parents do not need to tell anyone about it except for the circumstances defined in the Act. Children’s Hearings are not part of the criminal court system, but records of decisions taken at Children’s Hearings are kept by the police on their national computer system. They cannot formally become a ‘previous conviction’ in any later appearance before a court, but they may be mentioned in background reports to a court.

What is the purpose of the Act and what does it say?
It is intended to limit the time during which a person must reveal that they have a ‘criminal conviction’, especially when applying for a job. An appearance at a Hearing becomes a ‘criminal conviction’ under this Act if grounds for referral involving the commission of an offence by a child are admitted or are proved before the Sheriff.

For how long do ‘criminal convictions’ have to be revealed?
The Act talks about a ‘rehabilitation period’ after which the conviction does not have to be revealed. It becomes a ‘spent conviction’. This rehabilitation period is six months from the date the grounds were accepted or proved. When this has led to the child being placed on a Compulsory Supervision Order, it is one year from the date it was made. If the child is on supervision for more than one year, then it is on the date it is terminated. This can be quite complicated if the child has had several appearances over time for various offences.

Are there any exceptions to this rule?
Yes. As you can imagine, there are a number of jobs and situations where it is considered that even a child’s previous behaviour is very important to know about. There is a list of these stated in law. Please click on the link below to view a leaflet which provides more information including the list of jobs.

Where can I get more information?
You can get more information from the Disclosure Scotland website.

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Publishing information online

Parents and carers should be aware that there is legislation which governs the identification of children and young people involved in the Children’s Hearings System.  You are not allowed to publish information online. This includes any information you receive about your child’s Hearing such as a letter or report.

Under section 182 of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, it is a criminal offence to publish any information either intended or likely to identify any child concerned or connected with the case, the proceedings or any appeal. It is also a criminal offence to identify the child’s address or school. The legislation not only protects the referred child, but any other child who becomes involved in the case, such as a sibling or a child witness.

To publish includes social media such as Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.

 

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