The Scottish Government introduced the Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill in December 2022. The Bill proposed a range of reforms for children and justice – including a recasting of the anonymity provisions and reporting restrictions imposed in cases involving children accused of crime – and child witnesses and complainers. The key changes are set out in sections 12 and 13 of the Bill.
Drawing on our international complainer anonymity research, Dr Andrew Tickell and Seonaid Stevenson-McCabe have submitted written evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education, Children and Young People Committee who are leading Holyrood’s scrutiny of the Bill at Stage 1. We recommend MSPs should revisit six aspects of the Bill as introduced, including :
- There should be greater legal certainty about when reporting restrictions begin to apply to child suspects, witnesses and suspected victims.
- The reporting restrictions in the Bill should be amended to recognise the right of children and young people to waive their anonymity without committing a criminal offence.
- The Bill should be amended to allow courts to extend reporting restrictions for child complainers and witnesses – as well as children convicted of crime.
- The Scottish Government’s power to dispense with reporting restrictions should be removed from the Bill.
- The maximum penalty for violating these reporting restrictions should be reviewed.
- Reporting restrictions in cases involving children should be updated in civil as well as criminal cases to bring greater consistency to the law as a whole.