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A Return to Welfare-Based Principles

With a tide of antipathy amongst juvenile justice practitioners towards the government’s punitive stance, another review of juvenile justice was conducted in 2004. This led to publication of the policy document, Getting it Right for Every Child: Proposals for Action (GIRFEC), (Scottish Executive 2005b) which set out a vision for children’s services running counter to the prevailing political rhetoric on youth crime. More aligned with the original principles of the Kilbrandon Committee, GIRFEC places primary emphasis on individual well-being, improving outcomes for vulnerable children and early targeted intervention. GIRFEC was adopted by the incoming SNP Government in 2007 and underpinned a further strategy document, Preventing Offending by Young People: A Framework for Action (Scottish Government 2008), which outlined a shared vision of what national and local agencies working with children and young people should do to prevent, divert, manage and change the behaviour of those who offend or are at risk of offending. This paved the way for increased diversion from both the youth and adult justice systems for under 18s. Unlike the prior punitive phase, these new policies were based on strong research evidence that the long-term outcomes for young people involved in offending behaviour could be best served by diverting them away from statutory measures, prosecution and custody, and implementing early intervention and robust community alternatives (McAra and McVie 2007). Research had also shown that persistent serious offending is strongly associated with victimisation and social adversity, such that these problems needed to be addressed alongside offending behaviours (McAra and McVie 2010).

The juvenile justice system underwent further transformation in 2011 with the Scottish Government roll out of a new ‘Whole System Approach’ (WSA) for young people who engage in offending. The WSA represents a reinvigorated welfare-based system delivered through multi-agency partnership and a renewed commitment to education and skills. The aim is to provide a more streamlined and consistent response to young people that works across all systems and agencies to achieve better outcomes for young people, especially those from the most vulnerable backgrounds and deprived communities. There are three main dimensions to the WSA (see Murray et al. 2015): first, a focus on ‘early and effective intervention’ (EEI) which aims to divert young people from the CHS through pre-referral screening and respond quickly to early signs of offending by putting in place forms of support with the aim of reducing future offending; second, a commitment to diverting 16 and 17 year olds away from prosecution to keep them out of the adult criminal justice system; and third, to ensure resources are available for all young people under the age of 18 returning to communities from secure care and custody to support their reintegration and reduce the risk of reoffending. Key components of the WSA are outlined in Box 18.2.

Box 18.2: The Whole Systems Approach to Young People Who Offend The WSA aims to achieve positive outcomes for young people who are involved in offending through the following mechanisms:

  • • Integrated processes and services across child and adult services;
  • • Streamlined and consistent planning, assessment and decision-making processes for young people who offend, ensuring they receive the right help at the right time;
  • • Effective ways of working with high risk young people involved in offending;
  • • Diversion of young people from statutory measures, prosecution and custody;
  • • Increased opportunities for community alternatives to secure care and custodial sentences;
  • • A consistent approach to risk assessment and risk management;
  • • Improved support for young people attending court;
  • • Improved services for young people in custody and reintegrating into the community.

Actions that can be taken under EEI include:

  • • No further action
  • • Direct police measures
  • • Single agency support, e.g. through education, health, social work
  • • Referral for targeted intervention, e.g. restorative justice, substance misuse work
  • • Referral to the Children’s Reporter

A Compassionate System of Juvenile Justice

Despite the introduction of the WSA, the CHS continues to be at the heart of juvenile justice in Scotland. The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 replaced much of the 1995 Act and now forms the legislative framework governing the CHS. The 2011 Act specifically sought to strengthen the role of and deliver better protection for children within the CHS. It legislated that offences admitted during Children’s Hearings could be classified as alternatives to prosecution rather than convictions and it was agreed that only very high tariff offences could be disclosed as criminal convictions, unlike previously. And, more recently, the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 has enshrined in law key elements of the GIRFEC approach and imposed further welfare-based measures, such as a named person for all young people. Contemporary transformations have led to Scottish juvenile justice being described as “a positive and inclusive process based on a broader vision of Scotland as a compassionate nation” (McAra and McVie 2014:272).

 
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