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Investigation finds at-risk children placed in secure care had human rights breached

An investigation by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland has found that children are being deprived of their liberty when placed in secure accommodation.

09/06/21

Investigation finds at-risk children placed in secure care had human rights breached

Vulnerable children in Scotland may have been detained unlawfully in secure accommodation, according to a new investigation.

The office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner has found that children may have been deprived of their liberty without due process of law.

It found that some children’s human rights had been breached because there was no evidence those children had been consulted following the decision of a children’s hearing to authorise secure accommodation.

There was little communication provided to help their understanding about why they had been detained, and crucially, many had not been told about their right to appeal.

Between 1 August 2018 and 31 July 2019, the investigation examined the cases of 118 children placed in secure accommodation across 27 local authority areas – detained for between 14 and 572 days.

The research found that a significant number of these children may have been unlawfully held for at least part of their detention.

Nick Hobbs, Head of Advice and Investigations at the office of the Commissioner, said children in secure accommodation have a high level of need and vulnerability, which reinforces the need for their rights to be respected in the decision-making process.

“Secure accommodation should be reserved for those whose needs cannot be met in any other environment or place of safety. Decisions with such severe consequences are not taken lightly but we have found that in some cases they are being made without due process of law.”

“It is critical that these children understand what is happening to them, that they are a key part of decisions that can impact the rest of their lives, and that they are told about their right of appeal.”

Following the investigation, Bruce Adamson, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, is recommending that local authorities urgently ensure compliance with existing laws, and that they assess their policies and practices and compatibility with the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Adamson is also calling for the Scottish Government, which has overall responsibility for the legal framework, to review the law in light of its commitment to delivery of recommendations of the Independent Care Review and implementation of the UNCRC Incorporation Bill.

“Taking away a child’s liberty is one of the most serious restrictions a state can impose on children’s human rights. It has deep and long-lasting consequences, particularly on a child’s emotional and social development,” Adamson said.

“Human rights law is clear that the detention of a child must be within the law and be only used as measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time."

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