Commissioner queries use of tagging

Electronic tagging of young people may be justified in only a few
cases, Scotland’s new children’s commissioner has warned.

Responding to Edinburgh’s pilot scheme for the electronic tagging
of young offenders, which is to start soon, Kathleen Marshall said
there was a danger that using tagging to deal with antisocial
behaviour could lead to the overuse of control at the expense of
providing care.

She added that recent media attention about the children of drug
abusing parents in Scotland reflected a “deep and chronic failure
in Scotland to provide support to families before the situation
reaches crisis point”.

She said: “Practitioners tell me they are not in a position to
provide support, and reports tell us that children who offend are
also the children most in need of care and attention.”

Marshall also said it would be a “shame” if reports were correct
about the Scottish executive already deciding to split youth
justice from welfare in the children’s hearing system after the
current review.

She acknowledged, however, that it was important for defenders of
the welfare basis of the hearing system to be brave enough to
debate its future.

Baroness Stern, of the International Centre for Prison Studies,
told the conference that the hearing system allowed choices taken
in Scotland to be made in the best interest of the child.

She said Scotland’s juvenile justice system was “for all its
problems, much admired around the world”. By contrast, the joint
parliamentary committee on human rights had protested about the
treatment of juveniles in England, adding that the convention
seemed to be “imperfectly understood by the Westminster

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