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Cases up by a fifth

Ministers warned that drugs and drink are imposing unbearable strains on children's panels, reports David Henderson

THE overall number of referrals to the children's reporter has risen by 20 per cent over the past two years, up from 65,104 to 78,199, official figures reveal.

By far the biggest increase is in the number of non-offence referrals, up by 45 per cent. Offence referrals are up by only 4 per cent.

Nevertheless, Phil Gallie, Tory home affairs spokesman, said the rise was placing intolerable strains on the service.

"Instead of tackling crime, the Scottish Executive is proposing to raise te age of criminal responsibility from eight to 12 and deal with 16 to 18-year-olds through the children's hearing system. The idea that 16-year-olds should not be treated as adults is ludicrous," Mr Gallie said.

Alan Miller, principal reporter at the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration, said improvements were in hand, including cuts in case backlogs.

"Our aim to promote human rights in the children's hearing system demonstrates that the Scottish system can deliver both care and justice to further the rights of the child under both European and United Nations conventions," Mr Miller said.

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