Project Update: Rights In Justice

August 23rd 2023

Following the launch of our Rights In Justice project in April 2023, Project Manager Claire Lightowler reflects on the developments and discoveries since then. 

It’s been four months since we launched the Rights in Justice project – to improve legal support for children and young people in conflict with the law.  The project began with a launch event, attended by over 50 people, to share information and discuss ideas about what our focus should be. We’ve been continuing to engage with people by delivering inputs at various conferences and meeting with a range of people individually. We’re still keen to talk, so please do get in touch if you’d like to learn more and/or share your thoughts about this area of work.  

As soon as word got out that we were looking to improve legal representation for children and young people in conflict with the law, enquiries to Clan Childlaw about offence related issues immediately increased. Usually enquires require the provision of information and advice, but there has also been an increase the number of children and young people receiving legal representation for issues linked to their conflict with the law.  

Through careful analysis and consideration of the issues raised by our clients we have identified several strategic areas of concern where we consider that Clan Childlaw can have a positive impact on outcomes for children who find themselves in conflict with the law. The last few months have highlighted the broad range of implications for children and young people who find themselves in conflict. We are continuing to assess where there can be improvement for young people who are asked to accept to deny offence grounds in the children’s hearing system, the joint reporting process in all its stages and ensuring clarity about potential disclosure implications.  We’re also working on how to best share this learning, and have so far delivered training to raise awareness about the complexities surrounding the disclosure of childhood convictions under the Disclosure and Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) schemes. 

Our policy influencing work in these first few months has primarily focused on the Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill, which is currently going through the Scottish Parliament. We gave evidence to the Education, Children and Young People committee highlighting a range of concerns, including, about the need for children who are referred to a Children’s Hearing to have an automatic entitlement to legal representation.  We argued that this was particularly important for children for whom a Movement Restriction Condition (MRC) was being considered, because this could amount to a deprivation of liberty. However, legal representation is important for all children referred to a children’s hearing on offence grounds because there are potentially significant long-term disclosure implications which result from this. Additionally, as we learn more about how information about other hearing grounds can be disclosed we are increasingly learning about the importance of ensuring that all children in the children’s hearing system have good quality legal representation whatever ground they are referred on. 

We’ve also been working with young people on ways of sharing their views and experiences. This has involved young people creating a very powerful animation titled ‘Alright?’ about what they want from their lawyers. This will be launched over the next couple of weeks!


Get involved


At Clan Childlaw we’re currently considering what we can do to better meet these needs and are keen to hear your ideas about what we might do together. Please get in touch on if you would like to discuss this work.



Dr Claire Lightowler was the Director of the Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ) from 2013-2021. During this time she published a major report, Rights Respecting? Scotland’s approach to children in conflict with the law, which explored whether Scotland was complying with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and what it would look like if children’s rights formed the basis of Scotland’s approach to children who are in conflict with the law. Claire called for urgent action and a commitment to change across Scotland when she delivered the 2022 Kilbrandon lecture.