The children's hearings system, Scotland's unique system of juvenile justice, commenced operating on 15 April 1971. The system is centred on the welfare of the child. A fundamental principle is that the needs of the child should be the key test and that children who offend and children who are in need of care and protection should be dealt with in the same system. Cases relating to children who may require compulsory measures of intervention are considered by an independent panel of trained lay people.
The rights of parents and children are protected by the legal framework which provides for decisions relating to the child's welfare to be decided by the panel of lay people while disputed facts and appeals are dealt with by courts. Children's panel members play a crucial part in the children's hearings system. They make decisions that are very important in the lives of children and their families. It is for this reason that great care is taken over their appointment and it is essential that they should be provided with first class training and good reference material that will enable them to do their job confidently and well.
This manual aims to provide information to widen the understanding of panel members and enable them to make sound, well-informed decisions at hearings.