We’re available for advice on children’s human rights on email at inbox@cypcs.org.uk and on freephone at

0800 019 1179.

symbolic illustration of Article 37 of the UNCRC.

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.

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.

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