The latest Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice Key Messages paper has now been published, summarising findings and themes from our work over the past three years. This builds on our first key messages document, published in 2016. Whilst policy and practice has progressed during the preceding years, the evidence we have gathered and the voices we have listened to have left us pondering some important questions that go right to the heart of what youth justice means today. In essence we are left wondering:
“Are children’s rights protected and upheld by Scotland’s youth justice systems?”
Whilst acknowledging well-intentioned policies and excellent examples of good practice in relation to “making Scotland the best place to grown up”, our reflection is that since Kilbrandon, change has been slow and incremental rather than radical and dynamic. Progress is being made, but we must not simply assume that the presence of the Children’s Hearings System means we are ‘getting it right’ for all children in conflict with the law. Our collective failure to maximise the potential of the Children’s Hearings System (CHS) for all children to age 18 has major implications for Scotland’s aim of making itself compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Scotland still detains an average of 46 children within a Young Offender’s Institution on any given day. Children aged 12 and over can still be prosecuted in an adult court. Just under 800 children were strip searched in police custody in the past year, and in 96% of cases nothing was found. Scotland’s children’s homes, secure units and custodial environments are disproportionately populated by young people from the most disadvantaged and impoverished communities. Why do these discrepancies continue? How can we address this?
In this document, we pose several important questions, and present the associated evidence to inform thinking and generate debate.
If you’d like to discuss this paper, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0141 444 8622.