How should Scotland’s care and justice system be improved for children and young people? A new enquiry aims to find out

The logo of Kilbrandon Again.

Children and Young People’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson has co-established an enquiry into how well Scotland supports children and young people in trouble.

Kilbrandon Again has been established by the Commissioner and Action for Children, and is supported by the University of Edinburgh.

The enquiry aims to identify what’s going well for children and young people in Scotland’s care and justice system, and what needs to be changed and improved.

The enquiry panel is being chaired by Richard Holloway, writer and broadcaster. He is supported by:

This panel previously produced  Where’s Kilbrandon Now?, which spelled out the dangers of the “get tough” policies that led to a massive expansion of the numbers of children and young people in prison.

This report recognised the value of the hearings system but pointed to the need for improvement and change.

Who Kilbrandon Again will hear from

Young people and adults with lived experience

People in this group who the enquiry will hear from include young people and staff in:

  • Polmont Young Offenders’ Institution,
  • Scotland’s secure units, and
  • residential homes.

It will also listen to parents.

People working in the system

People in this group who the enquiry will hear from include:

  • social workers,
  • panel members,
  • residential support workers,
  • lawyers, and
  • others with direct experience.


The enquiry will also gather expert evidence from academics and others about relevant research and trends in a Scottish, UK and international context.

Initial issues of concern

The panel has already identified issues of concern:

  • the age of criminal responsibility,
  • the long-term burden of a criminal record,
  • the lack of support for young people coming out of care and prison,
  • the lack of diversion from harm for the most vulnerable children and young people, and
  • the incidence of recidivism.

“In everyone’s best interests” to have a system which works effectively

Announcing the enquiry, Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, Bruce Adamson said:

“Scotland is one of only a few countries internationally which have decided to address youth offending on a rights-based, holistic welfare basis.

More than 40 years since its inception, the Children’s Hearings System continues to have much to recommend it, but we should always be willing to challenge and review law, policy and practice.

In particular, I am concerned that the age of criminal responsibility remains at eight years old and that vulnerable children and young people can acquire lifelong criminal records that affect their future opportunities.

I am grateful that the panel has accepted the challenge to examine how successfully Scotland is addressing offending by children and young people.

It is in everyone’s best interests that we have a system which works effectively and in a rights-compliant way.”

Panel Chair, Richard Holloway said:

“I think that one of the things that define a country is how well it supports children and young people to achieve their full potential and lead productive lives and this is particularly so about how well it supports children and young people whose needs and deeds are the most troubling. 

Having led a previous enquiry 14 years ago, which I believe was influential in evidencing the benefits of keeping young people out of courts and prisons, I am very interested in what has changed and what the current challenges are.

The panel are particularly interested in hearing from young people themselves about how they have been helped or not helped.”

Director of Action for Children in Scotland, Paul Carberry said:

“Action for Children works on the ground with young people across Scotland to prevent them going off the rails and to help them get back on again after they have been excluded, in trouble with the law, been in prison, and homeless.  

We are absolutely behind Scottish Government’s commitment to offer opportunity and hope to young people in this Year of Young People. 

We believe that this enquiry offers an opportunity to take stock of where we are, what more needs to be done, and what could be and needs to be done better.”

For more information about the enquiry email: or phone Maggie Mellon on 07503175418. 

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