HC Deb 14 February 1979 vol 962 cc582-3W
Mr. James White

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many children were prosecuted and how many referrals were made to reporters to children's panels in each of the years 1972 to 1977; and if he will make a statement on the powers and procedures of hearings and courts in dealing with cases involving children.

Mr. Millan

The information requested is as follows:

relating to cases involving children have been included in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill which is at present before Parliament. I consider that there are good grounds in principle for the transfer to children's hearings of the functions which I at present exercise in relation to children committed by the courts for residential training under section 413 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1975, but I appreciate that there needs to be discussion of any such changes with the courts, the local authorities and the other interests concerned.

I have also concluded that a number of changes to the powers and procedures of children's hearings would be desirable, including a power of adjournment, and an extension to children beyond control, falling into bad associations or exposed to moral danger, of existing powers to take children to places of safety. I consider that there is a sound case for some extension in the powers of children's hearings and of sheriffs to order temporary detention of a child, and I intend to initiate further consultations on this and on a number of other proposals, including a new power to enable hearings to suspend disposal of a case for a period of up to a maximum of six months.

I welcome the steady, albeit limited, growth in the range of facilities available to children's hearings which has occurred in the last few years, and I propose to continue to encourage such developments. I have concluded that the existing powers of hearings are sufficiently wide and flexible to allow them to make full and appropriate use of new provision for children in trouble or in need. I have concluded that hearings should have powers to remit to the sheriff court for disposal children aged over 16 who commit fresh offences. I have also concluded that a convincing case has not been made out for conferring on hearings a power to impose fines on children, to order forfeiture of weapons or to order driving disqualification.

The reports of the Dunpark committee on reparation by the offender to the victim and the Pack committee on truancy and indiscipline in schools have put forward a number of recommendations relating to the powers and procedures of hearings, and I propose to announce my conclusions on these later.