Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill

Posted on 01st May 2024
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SCRA has welcomed the passing of the Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill. The landmark bill passed Stage 3 in the Scottish Parliament enshrining in law age-appropriate care and justice for children and young people.

The Bill contains a series of measures to improve children and young people’s experiences of the care and justice systems.  Very significantly it will allow all children (now clearly recognised as anyone under 18) to access the Children’s Hearings System if they require it.  Anyone under the age of 18 will be able to be referred to the Children’s Reporter for any ground of referral.

The change in legislation will also ensure children and young people are kept out of prison, ending the placement of under 18s in Young Offenders Institutions, with secure accommodation being the normal place of detention instead.

The Bill also provides new reforms to support victims, including providing a clearer understanding of their right to request information from the Children’s Reporter and a new single point service for victims in the Children Hearings System.

The changes will also strengthen referral arrangements between courts and Children’s Hearings.

There is no clear date for the implementation of the various provisions in the Bill, but it is expected that raising the age of referral will occur in late 2025 to early 2026.

Alistair Hogg, SCRA’s Head of Practice and Policy, said: “We are delighted to welcome the passing of Stage 3 of the Children (Care and Justice) Bill.

“It is a significant step towards embedding UNCRC principles and Keeping The Promise, whilst reinforcing the Kilbrandon principles of the Children’s Hearings System.

“The Bill will mean that there is access to the Children’s Hearings System for anyone under the age of 18, removing the current inequality that exists for some 16 and 17 year olds.  Although a lot of the debate and discussion in Parliament focused on children who cause harm, the Bill allows for a referral to the Children’s Reporter an any ground.

“For those children who do cause harm, our research shows that nearly all children who harm have also been the victim of significant harm themselves. The Children’s Hearings System is a distinct system that takes a trauma-informed and rights-respecting approach, and will ensure age-appropriate care and justice is delivered and that children are given the support they need.

“The Bill also strengthens the support for those who have been harmed by children, allowing for the provision of information and access to the necessary support through a single point of contact.

“These changes recognise the UNCRC principle that anyone under 18 should be recognised as a child and provided with special rights and protections.”

Alistair added: “We look forward to working with all our partners in the Children’s Hearings System to implement these momentous changes.”

You can read the Bill in full on the Scottish Parliament website.

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