Updates on the Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill

Date: 17th January 2023
Category: Child justice system, Best interests of the child, Restraint

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The Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament in December. It will create several changes to the justice system for children.

The Bill followed a period of consultation with civil society organisations and individuals, including children and young people, to policy proposals. An analysis of these responses found a general consensus in welcoming this Bill. A range of views were shared on the  use of punitive measures such as movement restriction conditions (MRCs) and the age of criminal responsibility.

Concern for the use of increased punitive measure in a system that is meant to be welfare based was vocalised by organisations including Together and the Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ). Together supported CYCJ’s response to the consultation on this matter which said the use of MRCs should be limited and only used after a mandatory assessment of its proportional use to manage the level of potential harm to themselves and others while prioritising the child’s needs and best interests. While the introduced Bill follows this guidance, , the use of monitoring devices must be as a supportive tool rather than a punitive one and professionals must be aware of this.

The Bill proposes to increase the age of referral to the children’s hearing system to 18 which is a welcomechange to ensure children are not prosecuted through adult courts. However Scotland’s definition of a child is not aligned across legislation and the age of criminal responsibility remains at just 12 years old. This remains below international standards where the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has clarified that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be at least 14. (General Comment 24).