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Disentangling Offenders and Non-Offenders in the Scottish Children's Hearings: A Clear Divide?

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Children referred to the Scottish children's hearings tribunals system on offence and non-offence grounds were compared to explore whether more similarities than differences were found in their underlying realities and actual needs. This was the contention of the Kilbrandon Committee in 1964, which led to the establishment of the children's hearings system. The hearings system is distinctive in that decision making for children who offend and those in need of care and protection is dealt with in the same system of lay panels. Data on the referral records of 482 children found the grounds of referral changed over time with the majority of children (two-thirds) referred on offence and non-offence grounds at different points in their contact with the system. The remaining third of children had referrals either solely on offence grounds (villains) or solely on care and protection grounds (victims). While the social backgrounds of children showed more similarities than differences, the different referral pathways over time suggest that for some children more focused intervention primarily to address offending behaviour or child abuse and neglect may be required. The implications for policy and practice in the use of compulsory measures of supervision are discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh

Publication date: 2004-05-01

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