Courts, the Parole Board for Scotland or Scottish Prison Service (SPS) (in the case of Home Detention Curfews) may place restrictions on a child when they leave custody. These restrictions can include limits on the child’s movement, contact with others and behaviours for the purpose of managing the risks that parts of a child’s behaviour may pose to others. As with any conditions or sentence, it is important that licence conditions, the responsibilities placed on the child, and the consequences of non-compliance are fully explained to the child. Given the serious consequences of breaching conditions, including the potential return to secure care or custody, it is important to ensure that they understand the explanation provided and this is given in an understandable and age and stage appropriate manner.
Children subject to sentences of less than four years
- Children with sentences of under four years for non-sexual offences or who have not been given a Supervised Release Order (SRO) will be released automatically halfway through their sentence, if not released earlier, without supervision. This also applies to extended sentences where the custodial part is less than four years.
- An SRO (under section 209 Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995) can be imposed by the court where a child is given a sentence of one to four years and it is deemed supervision will be needed to protect the public from parts of the child’s behaviour that may pose a risk of harm to others until the end of the sentence.
- Children convicted under sections 205(2) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 will be released from secure care on licence after serving half of their sentence and will be subject to licence conditions set by the Parole Board prior to their release.
- Where a child has been convicted of sexual offences under Schedule 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, children will be released on licence after serving half of their sentence and will be subject to licence conditions set by the Scottish Government and supervised until the end of their sentence. The Parole Board only becomes involved if the child breaches their licence and are recalled or are seeking re-release following recall.
- Extended sentence (under section 210 Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995) can be imposed by the court to require additional supervision on licence following completion of a period of detention if the court believes a person may pose a risk to the public post-release.
Children subject to sentences of four years or more
- Children sentenced to be deprived of their liberty for four years or more (including those subject to extended sentences) qualify to be considered by the Parole Board for Scotland for early release on parole after serving half of their sentence. Parole enables the child to leave secure care and to return to the community on licence under the supervision of a community-based social worker.
- If the Parole Board does not grant parole at the halfway point of their sentence, which is the earliest opportunity for release, the child can continue to be assessed for parole at regular intervals. If they are still in secure care or custody at the two-thirds point of their sentence, they will be released automatically on licence. This applies whether or not an extended sentence has been imposed.
- Where a child has been convicted of murder under section 205(2) Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995, they will be sentenced to be detained "without limit of time". The child qualifies for consideration by the Parole Board for Scotland for release on life licence when the “punishment” part of their sentence imposed by the court ends and if agreed the child will be released on life licence.
- In exceptional cases, a court may impose a sentence of detention without limit of time under section 208 of the 1995 Act. The same process is followed as detailed above where a child has been convicted of murder under section 205(2) Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995
Children subject to an Order for Lifelong Restriction (OLR)
Once the punishment part of the sentence has been served the child becomes eligible for parole. Two years before this, the Case Manager in the YOI should begin to work jointly with social work staff in the community to make plans for possible release. The level of planning will be determined by the level of assessed risk; it could be a long time before the person is actually released, and in some cases the person may spend their whole life in custody. The difference for those subject to OLRs in respect of parole is the young person can be kept in a YOI (until the age of 21 or 23 with the agreement of the Governor of the establishment) or prison until the Parole Board believe that the risk they pose can be managed in the community.
Parole Board for Scotland
Approximately 16 weeks prior to the child being considered for release, a dossier - including reports from the social work service in the local authority the child intends to reside, the secure care centre or YOI the child has been placed in, and a psychiatrist and/or psychologist, if required - will be compiled and sent to the Parole Board for Scotland. This information supports consideration of and the setting of licence conditions, which will be in place until the child's sentence end date. The child will be provided with a copy of the dossier and given the opportunity to make written representations to the Parole Board on its contents.
The Children and Young Person's (CYP) Placement Manager acting on behalf of Scottish Ministers will set the licence conditions for release for those children who have been sentenced to less than four years for sexual offences. The license will expire on the same date as the full sentence.
The Parole Board for Scotland sets the licence conditions for all children sentenced under section 205(2) and 208 Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. All children sentenced under section 208 are released on licence, which will expire on the same date as the full sentence. Children sentenced under sections 205(2) or 208 to detention without limit of time are released on life licence.
A person released and returned to the community but still on licence or under supervision is supervised by a social worker from the local authority where they are residing.
Home Detention Curfews (HDCs)
It is possible for a child to be considered for release on a HDC if they are:
- Serving a short-term sentence (under four years) sentenced to a term of three months or more who has served at least one quarter of their sentence: or
- Serving a long-term sentence (four years and over) whose release on having served one-half of their sentence has been recommended by the Parole Board after their first review.
- Only individuals serving sentences of three months or more are eligible for HDC
- HDC cannot be considered before the child has served one quarter (25%) of their sentence.
- HDC is granted in the period leading up to the halfway stage of a child’s sentence.
- The minimum period for which a child can be released on HDC is 14 days and the maximum period is 180 days
- Long-term sentenced individuals can only obtain HDC if they have been pre-approved for release on parole at the halfway stage of their sentence by the Parole Board. The maximum period they can be released on HDC is necessarily restricted by the timing of the Parole Board’s decision to recommend the individual’s release at the halfway stage of their sentence.
HDC can be completed at home or another address in the community, subject to licence conditions and a curfew that will be electronically monitored by a tag, under the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993 as amended by section 15, Management of Offenders etc. (Scotland) Act 2005.
It is a legal requirement that the decision to release any child on HDC must be taken having regard to considerations of:
- Protecting the public at large;
- Preventing the child coming back into conflict with the law;
- Securing the successful re-integration of the child into the community.
The SPS undertakes a phased assessment process from screening for those who may be eligible for HDC through to the authorisation to release, including a home background report to assess whether any address identified by the child is suitable. The decision to release a child on a HDC is informed through an assessment framework with the final decision being made by the Deputy Governor, or in absence, the Governor in Charge. Further information on roles and responsibilities can be found in the SPS Home Detention Curfews Guidance.
It is important that conditions of a HDC, the responsibilities placed on the child, and the consequences of non-compliance are fully explained to the child. It is important to ensure that they understand the explanation provided and this is given in an understandable and age and stage appropriate manner, and support to comply with the HDC is provided, as failure to comply may result in breach and recall to custody to serve the remainder of their sentence. For children sentenced to a long-term sentence, this may also be reported to the Parole Board and can lead to parole being suspended. Recalls can be appealed to the Parole Board.
Application and subsequent release on HDC can result in pressure on families both to provide an address and to monitor the young person, as well as potentially placing strain on relationships. The Good Practice Guidance for the Support of Families Affected by Imprisonment suggests that:
- The home risk assessment carried out by the community-based social worker should be conducted by a home visit
- A Child and Family Impact Assessment should be included as part of the applications and support offered to the family as necessary
- Families should receive full information about the process and to whom they can speak should questions or difficulties arise
It is essential support is provided to young people and their families where subject to a HDC application.
Resources for this page
- Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003
- Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995
- Families Outside Home Detention Curfew Information Sheet
- Families Outside Parole Information Sheet
- Families Outside Time in CustodyInformation Sheet
- Management of Offenders etc. (Scotland) Act 2005
- Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019 – Part 4
- Parole Board for Scotland
- Navigating Scotland’s Justice System
- Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993
- Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Act 2015
- Sexual Offences Act 2003
- SPS Home Detention Curfews
- SPS Home Detention Curfew A Prisoners Guide on Release
- The Parole Board for Scotland Rules 2001
- Criminal Justice Family Support Network. (2015). Good Practice Guidance for the Support of Families Affected by Imprisonment. Edinburgh: Families Outside.
- CYCJ. (2018). Home Detention Curfews. Glasgow: CYCJ.
- HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland. (2018). Strategic review – an independent assessment of Police Scotland’s response to a breach of Home Detention Curfew (HDC). Edinburgh: HMICS.