Scotland publishes ‘Rights Respecting’ youth justice vision and priorities

‘The Rights-Respecting Approach to Justice for Children and Young People – Scotland’s Vision and Priorities 2021’ has been published by the Scottish Government (June 2021).

This five year vision builds on conclusions and findings from CYCJ’s ‘Rights Respecting? Scotland’s approach to children in conflict with the law’ paper, published in 2020 by Claire Lightowler. It also focuses on The Promise’s key findings and calls to action on avoiding and stopping the criminalisation of care experienced children, and how Scotland can meet the UNCRC obligations for children in conflict with the law, or who are at risk of being so.

It is supported by an accompanying Action Plan.

Key areas include:

  • Making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up, where all children and young people are loved, treated with respect, their voices are heard, their rights respected and their outcomes improved;
  • Support and information for victims is enhanced with work undertaken to ensure that victims are appropriately protected irrespective of the age of the person who has caused the harm or the system that deals with them;
  • Trauma-informed approaches and continued commitment to partnership approaches are core to achieving this vision for Scotland;
  • Extending the CHS for all 16 and 17 year olds;
  • Having no child in a Young Offenders Institution where possible and appropriate

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

“As a centre that’s working towards better outcomes for children, young people and  communities, we wholeheartedly welcome and support the Youth Justice Vision and Priorities, which clearly demonstrate the Government’s shift in thinking to ensuring our justice system is fully rights-respecting.

“The youth justice sector in Scotland has made substantial progress since the last youth justice strategy – Preventing Offending: Getting it Right for Children and Young People – was launched in 2015. Yet more remains to be done to ensure that all children and young people are respected, supported and their rights protected and upheld, no matter what harm they have caused, or how serious their crimes are.

“We particularly welcome the focus on children’s rights and understanding; participation and engagement; the Whole System Approach; additional support to victims; data and evidence; improving life chances; and early and effective intervention.

“At CYCJ, we look forward to working together with the Scottish Government and our stakeholders to make this vision a reality for every child and young person affected by the justice system, avoiding the criminalisation of children where we can and supporting them to achieve positive life outcomes.”

Youth Justice Standards

Scotland’s Youth Justice Standards have also been updated (for the first time since 2012).

In October 2019 draft standards were produced, leading to public consultation. Shadowing the WSA, the draft standards set out how a children and young people can expect to be supported at various stages of the justice systems, ranging from Early and Effective Intervention, through to smoothing transitions and improving outcomes following time within secure care or custody.  These standards will complement existing Health and Social Care Standards and the Secure Care Pathways and Standards Scotland. A child-friendly version of the standards is currently being co-produced with children and young people.

Supporting resources

The following documents support the aims of the Vision and Priorities, and are all available on CYCJ’s website:

Children in conflict with the law: An intervention planning approach
This resource outlines an intervention planning approach to reducing harm and improving outcomes for children whose harmful behaviour has brought, or may bring, them into conflict with the law. It pulls together in one place existing literature, research evidence and resources, with a format that can assist with structuring the development of individualised, holistic and systemic interventions. Read it here.

Early and Effective Intervention – Framework of Core Elements
Core elements for Early and Effective Intervention (EEI) have been available since 2015.  This updated version was commissioned by the Advancing Whole System Approach (WSA) Implementation Group and is intended to reflect current practice, taking into account new research, changes in practice and legislation since the original document was published.  The aim of this framework is to clearly set out best practice for the effective delivery of EEI in order to enable services to meet these objectives. Read it here.

Framework for Risk Assessment Management and Evaluation (FRAME) with children aged 12-17
This risk practice guidance for child-centred practice in risk assessment and management. replaces the previous FRAME for under 18s (2014). It has been updated in conjunction with the Risk Management Authority (RMA), and considers the principles of good risk practice as defined within the Framework for Risk Assessment Management and Evaluation (FRAME) as well as the process for risk management/reduction that is recommended as best practice. Read it here.


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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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