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.

Disclosures under freedom of information (FOI) reveal that officers responded 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.

The vast majority of callouts - 546 - were to the 18-bed Kibble Education and Care residential facility in Paisley, which can accommodate children and young people aged five to 26 from traumatic and chaotic backgrounds. This included the bomb threat.

There were also 302 callouts to the 18-bed Rossie Young People's Trust in Montrose. 

The 18-bed Good Sheppard Centre in Bishopton and Saint Mary's Kenmure residential facility in Bishopbriggs, which has 24 beds, had 76 and 41 callouts respectively. 

The data was obtained by the Scottish Conservatives following FOI requests. 

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The party's shadow justice secretary, Jamie Greene, said the situation was “deeply alarming”.

It comes amid plans under the Children (Care and Justice) (Scotland) Bill to raise the age limit so that all offenders under 18 are initially detained in these facilities instead of going to prison. 

The move would mean that offenders aged 16 and 17 convicted of crimes including murder or rape are housed alongside other vulnerable teenagers who are considered to be a danger to themselves or others.

There are currently 14 prisoners in Scotland aged 16 or 17 following a 93 per cent reduction in custodial sentences for teenagers in this age bracket between 2008/9 and 2019/20. 

Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary, Jamie Greene, 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.”

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During evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Education, Children and Young People committee in March, Claire Lunday of St Mary's Kenmure told MSPs that the secure care sector is already "well versed" in handling teenagers with convictions for serious sexual offences, while Alison Gough, director of the Good Shepherd centre, said that it had a "really strong record" of risk assessment and management in relation to youngsters with a history of harming others.

The most common cause of police callouts were for cases where residents had absconded from secure units. 

This accounted for 312 (32 per cent) of the incidents responded to over the past two years. 

According to the FOI response, police attended 229 'missing person/absconder' incidents at the Kibble residential facility; 34 at the Good Sheppard; 47 at Rossie Young; and two at St Mary's Kenmure. 

In addition, Police Scotland attended 14 sexual offence incidents at children’s secure care facilities in the last two years: four at the Good Sheppard residential facility, six at the Kibble Education and Care, two at the Rossie Young People’s Trust, and two at Saint Mary’s Kenmure facility.

Police also attended 84 incidents of physical assaults at children’s secure care facilities in the last two years: seven incidents of assault at Good Sheppard residential facility, 25 at the Kibble Education and Care residential facility, 38 at the Rossie Young People’s Trust, and 14 at Saint Mary’s Kenmure residential facility. 

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “These are concerning figures. Secure care offers the most intensive and restrictive form of care in Scotland.

"A young person is deprived of their liberty in a locked environment alongside the provision of care, support and education.

“Risk management is in place to meet the needs of the young person, staff and others in the secure care centre.

"The centres have confirmed that they have the experience and facilities to work with young people who have committed serious offences.

“The Scottish Parliament unanimously supported implementation of the Promise, which includes a commitment that 16 and 17 year olds ‘must be accommodated within Secure Care rather than within Young Offenders Institutes and the prison estate’.

“Confronting the causes of a young person’s behaviours can help them reintegrate, rehabilitate and desist from offending. This proven approach helps prevent further harm and minimises the number of future victims.”