Clan Childlaw has submitted a response to the Scottish Government consultation on the Children’s Care and Justice Bill. Our submission focused on the need to uphold the human rights of children who are in conflict with the law in Scotland.
We highlighted the need to ensure that offending by children is dealt with in a child friendly manner. The best interests of the child should always be a primary consideration and children must be able to understand and participate in proceedings. In particular there is a need to ensure that the child can participate in decision making, and potentially be able to challenge this if they believe their rights are not being respected. Not only is this best for children, but it is also necessary to uphold their UNCRC rights.
There are profound limitations on the ability of courts to deliver this child-friendly approach. We therefore support the use of the children’s hearing system (CHS) for offences by those under the age of 18 wherever this is possible. There is also a fundamental need for Scotland to develop specialist courts for children and young people (potentially for those up to age 26). In the shorter term, everyone involved in child court cases, including sheriffs, should receive child development training, trauma-informed training, and speech, language and communication needs training. Children also need access to specialist child-friendly lawyers who can support them through the process, with a need to ensure that legal aid is always available for children who are appearing in court settings.
We are of the view that the use of settings which deprive children of their liberty should be minimised, and alternatives used whenever this is possible. However, where it is necessary to deprive a child of their liberty, we are clear that this must take place within a child appropriate setting rather than a Young Offender’s Institution.
Clan Childlaw’s response to this consultation has been shaped by our ongoing work to explore in detail the legal needs of under 18s in Scotland who are accused of offending. The project, led by Dr Claire Lightowler, is examining the need for specialist rights-focused lawyers to work alongside criminal lawyers in order to uphold the human rights of children who are in conflict with the law. We are currently considering what good legal help might look like for these children and aim to establish the model for a legal service which will meet their needs and respect their rights.
We are also grateful to have had sight of the Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ)’s response to this consultation, which we drew on when preparing our own submission.
Find out more
Read Clan Childlaw’s full response to the Children’s Care and Justice Bill consultation.
Read more about our ongoing work to explore in detail the legal needs of under 18s in Scotland who are accused of offending, led by Dr Claire Lightowler.