Scottish Human Rights Commission reports concerns to UN Human Rights Committee

Date: 11th March 2020
Category: Children in conflict with the law, Age of criminal responsibility, International Covenant on Civil and Political, Equal protection from violence, Children with disabilities

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Specific issues for children’s rights included the use of restraint and seclusion in schools, corporal punishment, the minimum age of criminal responsibility, access to mental health services, and children and young people in custody.

The report is part of a review into the UK’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Scottish Human Rights Commission’s (SHRC) evidence will help the UN Human Rights Committee identify what the key rights issues are, and areas where it should ask the UK and Scottish Government’s for more information on their actions. 

In relation to children and young people, SHRC’s evidence included the following:

  • Restraint and seclusion in schools: SHRC highlighted the 2018 investigation by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland which revealed the lack of consistency in policies and reporting requirements across local authorities, and a general failure to consult with children and families involved. SHRC said that the UN Human Rights Committee should ask the Scottish Government to explain what steps it plans to take to develop and implement Human Rights Guidance on restraint and seclusion in schools.
  • Corporal punishment: SHRC welcomed the Children (Equal Protection) (Scotland) Act 2019 that will give children the same legal protection against assault as adults. However, it noted that this was only one step towards eliminating violence against children, and called for national strategies on positive parenting to accompany the new law. SHRC said that the UN Human Rights Committee should ask Scottish Government to update measures taken to promote positive non-violent forms of discipline.
  • Minimum age of criminal responsibility: SHRC noted that the Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 (which raises the age from eight to 12) falls short of guidance from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child which calls for a minimum of at least 14 years old. SHRC said that the UN Human Rights Committee should ask Scottish Government what steps it will take to raise the age to 14, in line with international standards.
  • Access to mental health services: SHRC noted high levels of mental ill-health in children and young people, coupled with high levels of rejected referrals to specialist services and long waiting times. SHRC said that the UN Human Rights Committee should ask Scottish Government what steps it is currently taking and to describe its plans for a human rights-based approach to improving mental health services.
  • Children and young people in custody: SHRC noted significant levels of mental ill-health within secure care institutions and custody settings in Scotland. It said that the UN Human Rights Committee should ask Scottish Government to explain how it intends to respond to the findings of the 2019 Expert Review into the provision of mental health services for young people at HM YOI Polmont.

Access SHRC’s full report here.

These issues are looked at in detail in Together’s 2019 State of Children’s Rights report which can be accessed here.