‘Rights respecting’ report calls for Scottish youth justice reform

Date: 12th February 2020
Category: Children in conflict with the law

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The report ‘Rights Respecting? Scotland’s approach to children in conflict with the law’, written by CYCJ’s director - Dr Claire Lightowler, outlines the changes that the youth justice system must make if Scotland is to uphold its commitment to the UNCRC.

It is the first report of its kind to translate the UNCRC into Scottish specific actions to improve policy, practice and experience in youth justice. It argues that there is a need to make improvements in several areas, including:

  • Defining children as under 18 and better responding to issues of child development;
  • Social inclusion and social justice as prevention;
  • Strengthening the participation of children in conflict with the law;
  • Upholding the rights of victims, paying particular attention to child victims;
  • Strengthening early intervention and diversion;
  • Taking a shared responsibility approach: strengthening community and family support;
  • Supporting the specific needs of children in conflict with the law;
  • Implementing an appropriate approach to children’s criminal records;
  • Ensuring due process for all children;
  • Improving our approach to the deprivation of children’s liberty;
  • Respecting the rights of children who commit the most serious harms and wrongs.

The report concludes that Scotland would benefit from thinking about children in conflict with the law from the perspective of rights. This represents a shift from focusing on children as troubled, challenging and vulnerable – an approach encouraging negative unintended consequences that disproportionately stigmatises the most disadvantaged children.

The report was officially launched at the University of Strathclyde’s Kilbrandon Lecture on 30 January, which was delivered by human rights lawyer Professor Manfred Nowak.