Someone has their hand up beside someone else, who is thinking of a thumbs up and an equals sign.

UNCRC Article 37

I have the right not to be punished in a cruel or hurtful way

Content note: This article discusses violence and abuse.

Article 37 of the UNCRC says that children and young people:

  • shouldn’t be tortured
  • shouldn’t be imprisoned for life with no chance of release
  • shouldn’t lose their freedom for no reason or in a way that is illegal.
A:

If you have a complaint about the police you can contact Police Scotland online, by post, by telephone, or in person at a police station. Information about how to make a complaint can be found here.

If your complaint is about a senior police officer you can make a complaint to the Scottish Police Authority.

If you are not happy with the response to a complaint, you can ask the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) to review the way your complaint was handled.

A:

Using handcuffs on a child – or any other kind of physical force – should only happen when absolutely necessary, like to stop that child harming themselves or someone else.

It should also only happen as a last resort and for the shortest possible time.

Your rights

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) says that no child should be deprived of their liberty in a way that is against the law except under very specific circumstances. It says you must be treated with humanity and respect for your dignity in a way that takes into account your age and ability.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child says in their General Comment 24 that a child can only be restrained when there is an immediate threat of injury to themselves or others and only when everything else has been tried.

A:

Someone is deprived of their liberty when they are kept somewhere and not allowed to leave, under constant supervision and control.

A:

Restraint means holding a child or young person to stop them from moving.

Seclusion means shutting a child somewhere alone and not allowing them to leave.

What you can do

If you believe you have been illegally restrained you can make a complaint about your treatment to Police Scotland. If you’re not happy with the decision they make, you can ask the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner to look at your complaint again.

A:

If you have a complaint about the police you can contact Police Scotland online, by post, by telephone, or in person at a police station. Information about how to make a complaint can be found here.

If your complaint is about a senior police officer you can make a complaint to the Scottish Police Authority.

If you are not happy with the response to a complaint, you can ask the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) to review the way your complaint was handled.

A:

If you are a child or a young person and would like advice and information from the Commissioner’s office – or to tell us something you’re worried about – you can contact Linda, Nick or Maria by:

  • using the form at the bottom of our website
  • emailing us at inbox@cypcs.org.uk
  • texting 0770 233 5720 (Texts will be charged at your standard network rate)
  • calling our children and young people’s freephone on 0800 019 1179.

We can also give advice and information about children’s rights issues to adults—please contact us on inbox@cypcs.org.uk or through using our contact form.

Being arrested

Article 37 covers what happens if a child or young person commits a crime. It says they shouldn’t be arrested unless there are no other options, and that they have a right for lawyers to give them advice about their situation and represent them in court.

If a child or young person is placed in detention they should remain there for the shortest possible time, and should:

  • be treated with respect
  • if in their best interest, be kept apart from adults
  • have their age taken into account when people think about their needs.
A:

It is important people are protected from crime – including crimes committed by children – and that victims are given some remedy. 

However, this has to be balanced with the fact that some children in conflict with the law may have experienced difficulties in their childhood – such as poverty, family breakdown or drug and alcohol use –which has led to their behaviour.

Some of them may also be victims themselves.  

Where the law says that a child should be punished for their actions in the criminal justice system, this can impact their future. States must recognise children’s vulnerability both as victims and perpetrators of crime. 

A:

There is an important difference in the UNCRC between rights to protection and rights to participation.

Rights to participation are about our ability to make decisions, such as voting or making decisions about medical treatment. For example, the law in Scotland says that under 16s can consent to medical treatment if a doctor believes they understand what the treatment or procedure means.

However, rights to protection exist to protect children from harm. Because punishing children, and treating them as adults when they commit crimes, can be harmful, Article 37 and Article 40 of the UNCRC are both protection rights.

That means that every child should enjoy them until they are 18. 

Someone has their hand up beside someone else, who is thinking of a thumbs up and an equals sign.

UNCRC Article 37

I have the right not to be punished in a cruel or hurtful way

A judge holds up their finger as a person beside them thinks of a thumbs up and an equals sign.

UNCRC Article 40

I have the right to get legal help and to be treated fairly if I have been accused of breaking the law

Losing your freedom

Article 37 also applies to young people who are detained without committing a crime. Some people who might be in this situation include:

  • people with disabilities
  • people who have recently entered the country
  • people in secure accommodation.
A:

Someone is deprived of their liberty when they are kept somewhere and not allowed to leave, under constant supervision and control.

A:

Secure accommodation is a place where children can go to get help if it isn’t safe to live at home because they might hurt themselves or someone else.

To make sure that they get the help they need and to keep them safe, they are locked in and can’t leave. It is a place that children should only go if there is no other place where they can get help.

It is important that children are involved in the decision to send them to secure accommodation. They should understand why it is in their best interest to be there.


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