Police Scotland have been called out to almost one thousand incidents at children’s secure care facilities in the last two years – including one for a bomb threat – the Scottish Conservatives have learned.
Responses to Freedom of Information requests by the party reveal that the police were summoned to 965 incidents during 2021/22 and 2022/23, including 14 for reports of sexual offences.
The figures also show there were 312 callouts for youngsters going missing from Scotland’s four secure units for children, as well as 84 assaults reported.
Shadow justice secretary Jamie Greene voiced concern that the “deeply alarming” situation was likely to get even worse if the SNP press ahead with plans to raise the age limit so that all offenders under 18 are detained in these facilities.
This would mean 16- and 17-year-old offenders guilty of murder or rape joining the under-16 offenders currently housed there.
Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Jamie Greene MSP said: “These deeply alarming figures highlight the scale of the discipline problems in Scotland’s secure units for children.
“These facilities are home to some of the most damaged and vulnerable youngsters in the country, so it’s unsurprising that there are some police callouts.
“But it’s the sheer number of callouts – and the seriousness of many of them – that’s so concerning. The bomb scare and the prevalence of sexual offences are particularly worrying.
“Adding the most dangerous 16 and 17-year-old offenders – including murderers and rapists – into this environment is surely only going to make the problem worse, so, I’d urge the new SNP justice secretary to think about the consequences of her plans to increase the age limit for these units.
“As well as the potential harm it would do to vulnerable young offenders, Police Scotland are already stretched to breaking point by falling officer numbers and SNP budget cuts, so can ill-afford even more regular callouts to these facilities.”
Police have attended 965 incidents at children’s secure care facilities. Police Scotland recorded 76 callouts for incidents at Good Sheppard Centre between 2021-22 and 2022-23, 546 callouts at Kibble Education and Care residential facility during the same time, 302 callouts at Rossie Young People’s Trust and 41 callouts at Saint Mary’s Kenmure residential facility. (Police Scotland FOI 23-0845, 27 April 2023, Attached).
This included police being called to a children’s secure care facility due to a bomb threat. In 2022-23, a bomb threat was reported to the police at Kibble Education and Care residential facility. This required police attendance and was recorded as an ‘initial service code’ incident. (Police Scotland FOI 23-0845, 27 April 2023, Attached).
Police Scotland have attended 14 sexual offence incidents at children’s secure care facilities in the last two years. Between 2021-22 and 2022-23, there were 4 incidents of sexual offences that Police Scotland attended at the Good Sheppard residential facility, 6 incidents of sexual offences recorded at the Kibble Education and Care, 2 incidents recorded at the Rossie Young People’s Trust and finally 2 incidents recorded at Saint Mary’s Kenmure facility. (Police Scotland FOI 23-0845, 27 April 2023, Attached).
Police had to attend 84 incidents of assaults at children’s secure care facilities in the last two years. Across the financial years of 2021-22 and 2022-23, there were 7 incidents of assault at Good Sheppard residential facility, 25 incidents of assault recorded at the Kibble Education and Care residential facility, 38 assaults attended at the Rossie Young People’s Trust and 14 incidents of assault at Saint Mary’s Kenmure residential facility. (Police Scotland FOI 23-0845, 27 April 2023, Attached).
Police Scotland have been called out 312 times due to a person going missing from children’s secure care facilities. Police Scotland confirmed that between 2021-22 and 2022-23, there were 34 incidents of a missing person/absconder at the Good Sheppard Centre residential facility, 229 incidents at the Kibble Education and Care residential facility, 47 incidents recorded at Rossie Young People’s Trust residential facility and 2 incidents recorded at Saint Mary’s Kenmure residential facility. This total counts only where the final service code designated by the police was as a missing person or an absconder. (Police Scotland FOI 23-0845, 27 April 2023, Attached).
The SNP want to send all 16 and 17-year-old offenders to these secure care facilities – including murderers. The Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill raises the age at which offenders go through the Children’s Hearing system to anyone aged under 18, meaning they cannot initially go to prison but instead go to secure accommodation. Angela Constance confirmed to the Criminal Justice Committee: ‘In those gravest of cases, where the young person is progressed through the criminal justice system and, as can happen, a hefty custodial sentence is handed down, what happens in practice is that, if the young person is 16, they will spend the first few years of their sentence in secure accommodation’. (Criminal Justice Committee, 19 April 2023, link).
FOI response from Police Scotland