Improving legal support for children and young people in conflict with the law

Date: 13th October 2022
Category: Child justice system

Illustration shows children lying on the ground drawing a giant picture of what they think a judge looks like. The judge is smiling.

What does a good lawyer look like? What does good legal support look like? These are some of the questions Clan asked in a study involving children and young people and legal practitioners to better understand the legal needs of children and young people in conflict with the law and to identify improvements.

The report identified a gap between the legal needs of children and young people and the experiences they usually have. After consulting with professionals and practitioners who work in this field, as well as children and young people themselves, the study discovered some of these needs. These include lawyers who show up as “real people” offering not just legal advice but compassion and support. Children and young people need more time with their lawyers in formal and informal capacities. They want more education on their rights and entitlements and a better awareness of the legal process and more legal support and representation at critical stages.

As Scotland’s law centre for children and young people, Clan Childlaw has committed to bettering their support based on these needs identified in the study. However, Clan does not undertake criminal defence work and there is currently no dedicated legal service in Scotland which specialises in representing children and young people who are in conflict with the law. Clan calls for further dialogue with professionals with a range of expertise, specifically trauma informed lawyers, to resource some of the changes needed to meet children and young people’s needs.