Children and Young People in Custody in Scotland: Looking Behind the Data




Key findings in this Scottish research include:

There has been a dramatic reduction over the last decade in the level of offending by children and young people in Scotland, and a general decline in the number of under 18s in custody since 2009.

Whilst the report cites examples of successes as a result of strong partnership working and effective support, it also notes that necessary supports are not consistently in place across the country and some sentences are short, limiting the scope to have comprehensive support in place at the point of liberation.

Early school exclusion is one of the strongest predictors of making the transition from the Children’s Hearing System to the adult criminal justice system and ending up in custody. School exclusion before age 12 significantly increased the odds of imprisonment by age 22.

It is imperative that all children and young people in custody and their families are provided with good quality throughcare support A period of custody – no matter how short – may disrupt the child or young person’s life with consequences which go far beyond the sentence without effectively addressing issues and needs.



Reference:  Robinson, G. Leishman, J. Lightowler, C. (2018). Children and young people in custody in Scotland: Looking behind the data (Revised June 2018). Edinburgh: YJIB




Of the 327 young men under 21 in HMYOI Polmont who responded to the Scottish Prison Service 2015 Prisoner Survey, a third (33%) reported being in care as a child, and a quarter were in care at the age of 16 (Broderick and Carnie, 2016).



Note that grey literature publications should be referenced in the normal (Author, date) convention. Grey literature is any information that is not produced by commercial publishers. It includes research reports, working papers, conference proceedings, theses, preprints, white papers, and reports produced by government departments, academics, business and industry, although here at we collate academic research (social research that has a particular theoretical framework) separately from research that is survey-based (designed to identifying so-called 'social facts').


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Download this file (Young-People-in-Custody-01-18-revisions.pdf)Young-People-in-Custody-01-18-revisions.pdf[Robinson, G. Leishman, J. Lightowler, C. (2018). Children and young people in custody in Scotland: Looking behind the data (Revised June 2018). Edinburgh: YJIB]796 kB

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