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Age-appropriate care and justice

Bill passes Stage One.

Proposed legislation to ensure children receive age-appropriate justice and support has passed its first parliamentary stage, in a vital step towards Keeping the Promise.

The Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill contains measures to improve children’s experiences of Scotland’s care and justice systems. The Bill will deliver improvements to young people and communities affected by these issues - as victims, witnesses or children who have caused harm. It would see an end to the use of Young Offenders Institutions and prison for all children up to 18, with secure accommodation being the normal place of detention instead.

The Bill has been developed to align with the wider ambitions of incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law and the Scottish Government’s ambition to Keep the Promise by 2030.

Further proposals in the Bill include:

  • giving victims a clearer understanding of their right to request information from the Children’s Reporter
  • tighter regulation for cross-border placements, to ensure that these happen only in exceptional cases where that move is in a child’s best interests
  • extending the presumption of anonymity of all children, including victims and witnesses and those who have caused harm
  • enabling secure care to support a young person past their 18th birthday
  • broadening the range of cases where a movement restriction condition may be applied to a child - only where needed to protect them, and others, from harm

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise Natalie Don also announced up to £4.6 million to extend a pilot for 16 secure care beds. This will ensure there is the necessary capacity to deliver on the proposals to end custody for under 18s.  

Ms Don yesterday said:

“The Scottish Government is committed to Keeping the Promise by 2030 and to incorporating the UNCRC into domestic law as far as possible as soon as practicable. Today’s debate is a vital step in our journey to transforming the lives of children, especially those who need extra care and protection.

“This Bill will improve children’s experiences of the care and justice systems and ensure this only happens in age-appropriate systems and settings. Ending placements in Young Offenders Institutions and prisons for children is one of the key actions from The Promise.

“I am also pleased to extend pilot funding for 16 secure care beds across Scotland, paving the way to put elements of this Bill into practice.

“I am grateful to everyone who has contributed to the process, Scotland made a promise to our children and young people – today is an important milestone towards keeping it.” 


Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill

Procurators Fiscal will retain the discretion to prosecute children and young people in court, in line with guidelines set by the Lord Advocate.

In line with parliamentary process, the Scottish Government is working with key partners to update the Financial Memorandum (FM) prepared last year and will submit a supplementary FM as part of the Bill’s Stage 2.

The Promise is the outcome of the Independent Care Review and was published in 2020. The Scottish Government signed up to all of the conclusions set out in the review and set out the actions we would take in The Promise Implementation Plan published in March 2022. 


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