To help understanding of how we can support children in conflict with the law to understand their legal rights following the UNCRC incorporation, CYCJ has teamed up with Staf and Youth Justice Voices to co-produce a resource with children and young people. Ross Gibson explains what’s involved – and why we need your help to make this a success.
In March 2021, Scotland’s Parliament unanimously supported the incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots’ law, meaning that before the end of this year statutory bodies will be obliged by law to consider the impact of any legislation or policy initiative upon those under the age of 18. It’s a positive move of course, and a further step towards Scotland becoming a rights-respecting nation.
Articles 37 and 40 of the UNCRC make specific reference to children who have come into conflict with the law, with the related General Comment 10 articulating many areas where Scotland may need to amend existing practice.
Included within that is the way in which we support children who are in conflict with the law to understand their legal rights; what this may mean for their criminal record, what court decisions mean and what support is available to them.
It is something that is very inconsistent across the country, and really depends on the knowledge of the family member, social worker or teacher who is looking to help, and searching online can often provide misleading information. For example, Diversion from Prosecution means entirely different things across the UK, whilst differing legislation means that a clear picture of legal rights is harder to refine. That’s why CYCJ has teamed up with Staf again to start a project that will see children and young people develop a resource that can be accessed by children in conflict with the law, and which will inform them of their rights at the various stages of the Whole System Approach.
In February and March CYCJ and STAF received a large number of applicants for the posts of leading on the project and I’m delighted that Jason, Marie and Dale have now been recruited by Staf. They now have the responsibility of linking in with children who have experience of the justice systems to co-produce a resource that will express what rights children and young people have when they come into contact with EEI, Diversion or Court. The resource will also look at other components of the Whole System Approach, such as community alternatives to custody and secure care, support to manage high risk situations, and reintegration and transitions into the community following periods of time in the prison or secure estate. A guide – be it an app, or website or similar – would have been very beneficial to so many people I met during my time as a social worker, who were understandably confused by the dry, legalistic nature of court citations and sometimes unsure what rights they held at each stage.
The plan is for this resource to be co-produced by the project workers and children and young people; between them they have a wealth of experience and knowledge that will create something really unique and engaging. To do this, we need the support of organisations and practitioners. We need your help to reach children and young people by sharing this opportunity with people who might be interested, and by putting us in touch with groups who might want to contribute.
And to any young people out there reading this who would like to get involved – please contact us. You and your pals will have lots of ideas about what should be included within the resource. What questions do you have about your rights when you’ve got into trouble with the law? How would you like to receive this information? What should it be called? We need your help. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
By collaboratively creating this resource I am sure that the participants, CYCJ and Staf will be able to help Scotland keep its obligations under the UNCRC, and ensure that children in conflict with the law are equipped with the knowledge that helps to ensure their rights are respected.
About our blogger
Ross Gibson is Practice Development Advisor for CYCJ. His focus of work includes young people’s participation in youth justice services, community alternatives to custody and secure care, youth justice input within higher and further education and identifying examples of creative practice.