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8 chs

  1. 1. The Children’s Hearing System Scotland has a unique children’s hearing system, which is quite different from children’s justice systems elsewhere in the world. In Scotland, children (those under the age of 16) are only considered for prosecution in court for serious offences such as murder, assault that puts a life in danger or serious road traffic offences that can lead to future disqualification from driving. If a young person is found guilty in such a case they may be sent to Polmont which is Scotland national Youth Offending Institute. It holds a maximum of 830 prisoners. Sentences range from 2 to 4 years. However, even in serious cases, the Procurator Fiscal may well refer the case to ‘The Reporter’ who can decide to refer the child to a hearing of the Children’s Panel. A child or young person may be placed before a hearing if he/she:  Is beyond the control of parents or carers  Is at risk of mortal danger  Is or has been the victim of an offence, including physical or sexual abuse  Is likely to suffer serious harm to health or development through lack of care  Is misusing drugs, alcohol or solvents  Has committed an offence  Is not attending school regularly without a reasonable excuse  Is subject to an Anti Social Behaviour Order As you can see, the Children’s panel deals with children in need as well as youth offenders. The belief is that children in need are more likely to turn to crime. It therefore makes sense to deal with them under the same system! 1|P ag e
  2. 2. How Does The Children’s Panel Work? What is the Children's Panel? The Children's Panel is a group of specially selected volunteers who make the decisions about children who have been referred to Children's Hearings. What is a Hearing? A Hearing is a type of meeting that takes place to decide what needs to be done in the best interest of the child. What happens at a Hearing? The majority of Panel Hearings take place within the child's home area, with the child, the child's parents, their Social Worker, the Reporter to the Children's Panel and three Panel members being present. The Hearing room is normally an informal set up comprising of everyone attending sitting around a table. These measures are taken to make the child and the child's parents feel part of the proceedings. Panel members are given background reports in advance of a Hearing, from different agencies which they have to consider carefully and when the Hearing takes place, the content of these reports are discussed informally with the child and those other persons present. The Panel members then have to make a decision as to the appropriate action to be taken in the best interests of the child. Each Hearing can usually last anything up to an hour. If a decision concerning the child's future is taken and either the child and/or the child's parents do not agree on the decision, they have the right to make an appeal to the Sheriff. Who decides if a Child has to attend a Hearing? The Reporter to Children's Panel is primarily responsible for recommending that a child attend a Hearing. The majority of referrals to the Reporter come from the Police or the Social Work Service of the local authority, although anyone who has concerns that a child may be requiring help, such as teachers or members of the public, have the right to approach the Reporter. Any child from new-born to sixteen years of age may be referred to the Reporter and may attend a Hearing. 2|P ag e
  3. 3. What kind of people are Children's Panel Members? Children's Panel members are people 18 years or over who come from a wide cross-section of the public. People from all occupations and income groups are chosen to serve on Children's Panels. Anyone who has an interest in the welfare of children and would be willing to devote time to helping and protecting the best interests of the child is welcome to apply to the Children's Panel. Certain people cannot become Panel members, such as Police, Social Workers and Justices of the Peace as their involvement in a case may be considered prejudicial. What Options are Open to the Children’s Panel?    A child will continue to live at home, but will be subject to supervision by a social worker. In some cases the hearing may decide that the child should live away from home with either a relative, foster parents, or in a secure accommodation or residential school. Children's Hearings also have the power to restrict the movements of a child, by the use of an electronic 'tag', which restricts the child to, or away from, a particular place. However, this tag must be accompanied by a package of intensive measures to help the child change their behaviour. 3|P ag e
  4. 4. The Strengths & Weaknesses of the Children’s Hearing System   Strengths It deals with children in need and youth offenders under the same system. As children in need often become offenders this makes sense. The hope is that if you can help children when they are in need they will not become offenders. The Children’s Panel is ‘child focused’ This means that the child is the most important person in the room. All written documents are child friendly. The child can have an advocate with them (an adult who is there to look after their interests and help them to understand what is going on)   Weaknesses It has come under attack for buckling under the pressure of high demand. Children are ‘slipping through the cracks’ because the panel system is overworked. This means that children are left in danger and often end up offending or reoffending because of lack of supervision. This is often identified as one of the central causes of Scotland’s youth offending issue. It has come under attack for taking too long and being powerless. Unless it is deemed an absolute emergency, Panel meetings can take months to be arranged. Also, it can be a difficult process for the panel to take steps to change a child’s life. If the parents refuse to accept conditions set by the panel it must go in front of a judge. Again this takes time! Individual Task – The Children’s Hearing System Answer in sentences 1. Who attends a Children’s Panel? 2. Who makes the decision on whether to call a Panel or not? 3. What options are open to a Panel? 4. What happens if a parent disagrees with a Panel decision? Exam Practise Nat 4 Describe one strength and one weakness of the Children’s Hearing System. (4 marks) Nat 5 Explain, in detail, the strengths and weaknesses of the Children’s Hearing System. (8 marks) 4|P ag e