Research Report

Evaluation of the Airdrie and Hamilton Youth Court Pilots



McIvor G, Barnsdale L, MacRae R, Brown A, Eley Morris S, Malloch M, Murray C, Piacentini L, Walters R & Stewart D (2006) Evaluation of the Airdrie and Hamilton Youth Court Pilots. Scottish Executive. Crime and Criminal Justice, Social Research. Scottish Executive.

Pilot Youth Courts were introduced at Hamilton Sheriff Court in June 2003 and at Airdrie Sheriff Court in June 2004. Although introduced as one of a number of measures aimed at responding more effectively to youth crime (including young people dealt with through the Children’s Hearings System), the Youth Courts were intended for young people who would otherwise have been dealt with in the adult Sheriff Summary Court. The objectives of the pilot Youth Courts were to: • reduce the frequency and seriousness of re-offending by 16 and 17 year old offenders, particularly persistent offenders (and some 15 year olds who are referred to the court); • promote the social inclusion, citizenship and personal responsibility of these young offenders while maximising their potential; • establish fast track procedures for those young persons appearing before the Youth Court; • enhance community safety, by reducing the harm caused to individual victims of crime and providing respite to those communities which are experiencing high levels of crime; and • test the viability and usefulness of a Youth Court using existing legislation and to demonstrate whether legislative and practical improvements might be appropriate. Evaluation of the Hamilton and Airdrie Sheriff Youth Court pilots suggested that they had been successful in meeting the objectives set for them by the Youth Court Feasibility Group. Both were tightly run courts that dealt with a heavy volume of business. The particular strengths of the Youth Court model over previous arrangements included the fast-tracking of young people to and through the court, the reduction in trials, the availability of a wider range of resources and services for young people and ongoing judicial review. The successful operation of the pilot Youth Courts was dependent upon effective teamwork among the relevant agencies and professionals concerned. Good information sharing, liaison and communication appeared to exist across agencies and the procedures that were in place to facilitate the sharing of information seemed to be working well. This was also facilitated by the presence of dedicated staff within agencies, resulting in clear channels of communication, and in the opportunity provided by the multi-agency Implementation Groups to identify and address operational issues on an ongoing basis. However, whether Youth Courts are required in Scotland or whether procedural improvement were possible in the absence of dedicated resources and personnel was more difficult to assess. Two issues in particular required further attention. First, consideration needed to be given to whether the Youth Courts should be more explicitly youth focused and what this might entail. Second, greater clarity was required regarding for whom the Youth Courts were intended. This suggested the need for further discussion of Youth Court targeting and its potential consequences among the various agencies concerned.

youth court; youth crime; scotland; Juvenile justice, Administration of Scotland; Recidivists Scotland; Discipline of children Scotland; Juvenile delinquency Scotland

Title of seriesCrime and Criminal Justice, Social Research
Publication date31/12/2006
Publication date online2006
PublisherScottish Executive
Publisher URL
ISBN0 7559 60807

People (2)


Professor Margaret Malloch

Professor Margaret Malloch

Professor, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology

Professor Gillian McIvor

Professor Gillian McIvor

Emeritus Professor, Sociology, Social Policy & Criminology