Upholding children’s rights in custody

The Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ) has contributed to important work aimed at upholding the rights and wellbeing of children in custody.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland (HMIPs) has shared the findings from a
pre-inspection survey it undertook to capture and better understand the experiences, health and wellbeing of children in prison.

As part of Scotland’s Year of Childhood, HMIPS decided that the experiences of children in custody would provide an important pilot for an initial survey design, prior to developing a bespoke adult survey for the wider prison estate.

The pre-inspection survey for children was developed together with CYCJ and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.

The results showed a vulnerable population who had experienced high levels of loss, separation and disruption in their childhoods. The majority of children were affected by the death of a close relative or friend, and the same number also affected by family breakdown. Experiences of abuse and neglect were also prevalent.

The survey also found that children were physically well cared for and there was evidence of valued relationships with prison staff. However, children’s psychological, educational, social or cultural rights and needs were often not being met in prison.

An accessible version for children and young people is also available.

The survey findings were published alongside guidance for children in custody, jointly produced by CYCJ and the CYPCS. ‘Know Your Rights When Entering Custody’ details what human rights children are entitled to in custody, and how to make sure these are met.

This was written with and reviewed by the young men in HMPYOI Polmont, as part of Youth Justice Voice’s Inside Out participation project.

Fiona Dyer, CYCJ’s Director (Interim), said:

“Children entering custody have as much right as anyone to be kept safe, be heard and fairly treated and have access to education, fresh air and other resources that can help with their physical and mental wellbeing. What this survey shows is that this isn’t always the case, and it is clear that more work needs to be done to make this happen.

“Ultimately, we would rather see no child deprived of their liberty, but if this needs to happen, then we must ensure it is for the shortest time possible and that their rights are upheld and respected throughout this experience. We hope our joint flyer produced with the Children’s Commissioner will play a part in this and that the findings of the survey will be acted upon to improve outcomes.”

‘Know Your Rights When Entering Custody’ builds on CYCJ and the Scottish Child Law centre’s good practice guide for solicitors representing care experienced young people in custody, which was published in August 2021.


Pre-Inspection Survey 2021

Accessible version

Know Your Rights When Entering Custody

Contact Us

Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice
University of Strathclyde
Lord Hope Building, Level 6
141 St. James Road Glasgow G4 0LT

(0141) 444 8622


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