Views sought on extending the age range of young people referred.
The Scottish Government is consulting on raising the age at which a young person can be referred to a children’s hearing from 16 to 18.
Currently only 16 and 17-year-olds who are already within the children’s hearing system can be referred or have their order continued until they are 18.
The proposal is that the bar on new referrals is removed so all young people between 16 and 18 can benefit from the range of protective and supportive measures available through children’s hearings.
The consultation, which runs until October, also asks whether improvements are needed to the advice and support available for young people who are victims of crime.
Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd said:
“We know many vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds currently fall outwith the Children’s Hearings System and we want to ensure all children and young people get the right support, care and protection at the right time.
“Our consultation calls for views on whether all under-18s should be supported in a child-centred system. This includes vulnerable young people at risk of exploitation, abuse or harm due to their own behaviour or the behaviour of others.
“The responses to our consultation will be vital in considering the best way forward and I look forward to considering all views.”
Neil Hunter, Principal Reporter and Chief Executive of the Scottish Children's Reporters Administration, said:
“This is a hugely important consultation. As Scotland moves ever forward in aiming to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and in keeping The Promise of the Independent Care Review, the need for us to have an inclusive and welfare based approach to the needs of all children is more critical than ever.
“The Scottish Government is to be commended for picking this issue up and attempting to close this gap and anomaly in our approach in Scotland.”
Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, said:
“We welcome the launch of this consultation, and its aims to tackle the root causes of young offending, reducing the number of children and young people entering the criminal justice system. This will enable harmful behaviours involving children below 18 to be addressed on a case by case basis, and will ensure victims receive appropriate support and information.
“Victim Support Scotland believes that victims of child perpetrators must be as protected in the same way as victims who experience crime when the perpetrator is an adult. The voices and experiences of those affected by crime must be at the heart of any proposed changes.”
The 2019-20 Programme for Government made a commitment to consult on enabling joint reporting to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the Principal Reporter of all 16 and 17-year-olds’ offence cases.
This consultation goes further and seek views on increasing the age at which children can be referred to the Reporter for care, protection and offence grounds.
Currently only 16 and 17-year-olds who have a compulsory supervision order or an open referral can be referred to the children’s hearing system. Courts can also make a referral following guilt being accepted or established.