Child Protection Guidance 2021

Part 2A: Roles and responsibilities for child protection 63 National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2021 Version 1.0 September 2021 2.158 Care should be taken to comply with non-disclosure measures and protocols when this special provision is considered necessary to protect the whereabouts of a child, or relevant person with whom the child is residing, due to significant concerns about their safety. Breaches of non-disclosure measures can have serious consequences for children and those who care for them. In the event of a breach of a non-disclosure condition by a partner agency, SCRA is to be informed immediately so the risks to the child(ren) or carers can be assessed and action taken to protect them, if necessary. 2.159 Section 122 of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 provides that the chairing member of the children’s hearing must inform the child of the availability of children’s advocacy services unless he or she considers that it would not be appropriate to do so, taking into account the child’s age and maturity. This section of the 2011 Act gives children the support of an independent advocacy worker as and when they need one, in order for them to give their views clearly and definitively, and to have their voice magnified within the children’s hearing. 2.160 Section 78 of the Children (Scotland) Act 2011 sets out the persons who have a right to attend a children’s hearing. These are the child, relevant persons, representatives, Reporter, Safeguarder, member of an area support team, and a representative of a newspaper or news agency. Section 78(4) requires the chairing member to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the number of persons present at a children’s hearing at the same time is kept to a minimum. Research has consistently made clear that children want the number of people in their hearing to be limited to those who are strictly necessary. Research also indicates that having a high number of people present in a hearing can impede participation by children and relevant persons. Each hearing will be conducted to ensure that process and participation is as child-centred and effective as may be planned in the circumstances. Information shared must be up-to-date, accurate and relevant. Children and their families must be supported in understanding what information will be shared and why during children’s hearings. Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Services 2.161 The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) is Scotland’s sole prosecuting service, independent of the police and the courts. COPFS is responsible for the prosecution of crime, investigation of sudden or suspicious deaths, and investigating allegations of criminal conduct by police officers. (Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) may investigate where directed to do so by COPFS). 2.162 Procurators Fiscal are based throughout Scotland. They are legally qualified civil servants who receive reports about crimes from the police and other reporting agencies, consider whether there is sufficient evidence to justify criminal proceedings, and then decide what action, if any, to take in the public interest. 2.163 In considering the public interest, Procurators Fiscal take a number of factors into account. These are set out in full within the Prosecution Code but include the interests of the victim, the accused and the wider community. This can involve competing interests and will vary with every case. In cases that will be considered by a jury, Procurators Fiscal will gather and review all evidence before Crown Counsel makes the final decision on whether to prosecute. Prosecutors will act fairly and without bias towards all victims, witnesses and accused persons, and be sensitive to individual needs, to ensure that the prosecution service delivers an equal opportunity to everyone in their access to justice. 2.164 Procurators Fiscal are subject to on-going professional development training.