SNP pledge to create ‘Bairn’s Hoose’ for child victims of crime
The SNP has pledged to introduce a ‘Bairn’s Hoose’ in Scotland to better support children and young people in the criminal justice system.
It will be modelled on the Scandinavian Barnahus, which is a child-friendly one-stop-shop to support children who have committed or who are victims or witnesses of crime.
The facilities allow children to be interviewed away from police stations and courtrooms, as well as providing access to medical care, social services and mental health workers.
The SNP’s justice spokesperson, Humza Yousaf, said: “At present young people caught up in the justice system may have to go through multiple different services in multiple locations. That simply isn’t right.”
He committed to ensuring every child would have access to a Bairn’s Hoose by 2025, adding: “These centres will operate on the principle that the needs of children in criminal cases are totally different from adults in the same situation. The child will be the centre of their work.”
The Barnahus model provides a safe and welcoming environment for children. Iceland first opened such a facility in 1998 and others countries have followed suit.
Charity Children 1st announced it would open Scotland’s first children’s house last year, backed by People’s Postcode Lottery Funding.
The Child’s House for Healing is to be located in East Renfrewshire and is expected to support up to 200 children across the west of Scotland.
A 25-year lease was agreed by East Renfrewshire Council in February for a property in Newton Mearns.
At the time, Mary Glasgow, chief executive of Children 1st, said: “We are delighted to be working with East Renfrewshire Council and the Health and Social Care Partnership as we take forward our plans to develop this forward-thinking approach to supporting children and young people who become victims or witnesses.
“Children and families are shocked by how traumatic it can be to give evidence in court and how little support there is to help them recover from their experiences.”
And council leader Tony Buchanan added: “It will benefit children right across the West of Scotland and take a new approach to supporting child victims of crime. East Renfrewshire has a strong reputation for being at the forefront of a wide range of pioneering initiatives and this is another example of us supporting sector-leading projects.”
Humza Yousaf also announced the SNP would create a new Victims Commissioner, who would provide an “independent voice” for victims and witnesses, as well as a plan to alter the funding regime for support services to ensure it is trauma informed.
And he confirmed the plan to begin consulting on scrapping the not proven verdict announced by Nicola Sturgeon.
The Scottish Tories have previously called for the rights of victims to be strengthened and have pledged to introduce new legislation if elected.
The party would seek to broaden the victim notification scheme to include more crimes, as well as allowing victims to challenge decisions taken by the Crown Office to not prosecute or to drop proceedings.
Justice spokesman Liam Kerr said: “The SNP’s record of empty promises and inaction on putting victims first speaks for itself.
“Now their big solution to fixing our broken justice system is a recycled a policy from the SNP’s 2019 Programme for Government and a U-turn on a Victims Commissioner role that they previously rubbished as a waste of funds."