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Youth justice in the UK: children, young people and crime
Youth justice in the UK: children, young people and crime

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2 Hearing about panels

The Children’s Hearings system has come a long way since it was established in 1971. You may recall from Session 2 that the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 was referred to as a high-water mark of the child-centred, welfare principles shaping responses to children’s offending behaviour. At about the same time, the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 allowed Scotland to take its own path with these principles. They have proved durable, distinctive and effective. The next activity provides an opportunity to find out more about how they work.

Activity 2 The Children’s Hearings system in Scotland

Timing: Allow approximately 20 minutes for this activity

Spend 15 minutes exploring the website of the Children’s Hearings Scotland [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Make sure you watch the short film which can be found on this page: About us.

When you have done this, make a note of three things you would tell a friend or colleague about if they had never heard of the Children’s Hearings system.

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What you would tell a friend or colleague might depend somewhat on whether you are from Scotland or not. To most people outside Scotland, the Children’s Hearings system is unfamiliar and people in England and Wales often assume the system for children’s offending behaviour will be the same throughout the UK. The emphasis on social work rather than courts and punishment is notable, as are the words used in the name of the system: ‘Children’ and ‘Hearings’. Another aspect is the stress placed on education and care.

Having explored the Hearings system in these activities you should now have a clearer idea as to how different they are to the system described in Session 2. Scotland has a legal system that is very different to the one that operates in England and Wales. Some aspects of it are closer to the legal systems of continental Europe because, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, political power and influence in Scotland were aligned as closely with its continental neighbours, particularly France, as much as with England. There is no Crown Prosecution Service, for example, in Scotland and it is the ‘Procurator Fiscal Service’ which is the body responsible for the prosecution of crimes. In the next section you’ll return to the issue explored in Session 1 about the age at which a child can be prosecuted for a crime and you’ll explore how Scotland has addressed it.