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Report from the Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending Involving Children and Young People: Our Response

We welcome the Expert Group on Preventing Sexual Offending Involving Children and Young People and in particular the opportunity it provides to focus on the importance of prevention work.

The prevalence of sexual violence specifically affecting young people is of serious concern, and though young people of all genders can be affected by rape and sexual assault, young women in particular are disproportionately impacted. This issue is pressing and requires an urgent, collective response.

Since 2016 our evidence based primary prevention programme has worked with over 60,800 young people in 209 schools as well as youth groups, delivering vital education on consent and healthy sexual relationships. Together with young people we’ve unpicked the stereotypes and expectations that come with being a boy or a girl, the influences or pornography, and the pressures that come from the media and our communities. All of this is fundamentally important because Scotland must work to tackle the inequalities between genders and the causes of sexual violence before it happens, as well as working with individuals displaying harmful sexual behaviour.

As an organisation we could not support the change in the Children’s Hearing System that would mean all under 18s who are over 16 and not subject to a compulsory supervision order to be considered for referral to the Reporter, rather than automatically processed in the adult criminal justice system.

Currently as soon as a decision is taken for a young person charged with rape to be referred to the Children’s Hearing system, all bail conditions are dropped. There is a lack of information for victims, safeguarding and accountability and so our reasons for not supporting this move are grounded in the experience of those survivors who currently are subject to this approach and the inadequate response of the Children’s Hearing System.

For young survivors to learn that their perpetrator is back in their area through Snapchat or hearsay – and for there to be no appropriate safety measures taken in this regard – is a failure of those institutions who have a duty of care to both the survivor and the perpetrator. The issues of information for victims, safeguarding and accountability require to be urgently addressed before we could support any measures to extend the age limit.

Read more on the report, its findings and recommendations here.