Ideology and hearings system operations : the perceptions of five participating groups
Recent research related to the children's hearings system - Scotland's juvenile 'justice system - is limited. This study is an attempt to address this empirical deficiency. It examines the perceptions of members of five participating groups (guidance teachers, social workers, police officers, panel members and reporters) on the structure and practices of the hearings system in three regions of Scotland. The research involved 389 respondents in a questionnaire survey, followed by 45 semi-structured interviews with a selected sub-sample. The study incorporated three research issues. Firstly, the groups' ideological perspectives on juvenile justice and their potential influence on attitudes towards the hearings system, secondly, the groups members' observations on present hearings system operations and thirdly the participants' convictions concerning future practice and structure. The general conclusions drawn from the investigation indicate that support across the five groups exists for the continuation of a welfare based juvenile justice system in Scotland but that differences between groups emerge on the matter of the organisation of that system. Majorities in the police officer, guidance teacher and social worker samples were ideologically opposed to lay decision-makers in juvenile justice and most interviewees from these groups expressed reservations concerning the continuation, in its present form, of the lay panel as the decision making body in the hearings system. Most panel members and reporters in contrast however, and again in accordance with their ideological stances, continued to support the dominant role of lay people in the decision-making process within hearings. The research conclusions further suggest the existence of a process of ideological modification on the part of group members when translating theoretical concepts into practical settings. This process, identified as situated accounts, in some instances permitted participants to acknowledge and work with aspects and practices within the hearings system which contradicted their underlying ideological beliefs.