The Kilbrandon LecturesPast Lectures

The Kilbrandon Lectures began at the University of Glasgow in 1992 before moving to the University of Strathclyde. Please see below for transcripts and, where available, video and audio recordings.

Overview of The Kilbrandon Lectures from 1991 to 2022

In the 21st Kilbrandon Lecture, Phil Scraton, Professor Emeritus at Queen's University Belfast considered the continued regulation and criminalisation of children and young people, particularly those defined as ‘troublesome’. he challenged their persistent marginalisation and denial of meaningful participation, calling for policies and practices which: contest negative assumptions and stereotypes; address socio-economic inequalities; prioritise the lived experiences and views of children and young people; and create hope through opportunity.

The lecture was chaired by Claire Burns, Director of Celcis and Professor Scraton was introduced by Professor Ian Rivers, Associate Principal and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Responses to the lecture were given by Neil Hunter, CEO of the Scottish Children's Administration (SCRA) and Shumela Ahmed, co-founder and managing director of the Resilience Learning Partnership.

Professor Phil Scraton is a criminologist who works in the public sphere. He is professor emeritus in the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast. Widely published on critical theory, incarceration and children/young people, he was a member of the Liberty Advisory Committee on deaths in custody and the JUSTICE panel on coronial powers. He led the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s research team and was principal author of its ground-breaking 2012 report, Hillsborough. In 2016 he published a revised edition of Hillsborough: The Truth. Seconded to the families’ legal teams throughout the 2014-2016 inquests, he was consultant on, and contributor to, the 2017 BAFTA winning ESPN/BBC documentary ‘Hillsborough’. He holds a Leverhulme Research Fellowship. Most recently, he was co-author of ‘The Report of the Independent Panel of Inquiry into the Circumstances of the H-block and Armagh Prison Protests 1976-1981 (Coiste, 2021), ‘Deaths in Contested Circumstances and Coroners’ Inquests’ (ICCL, 2021), and Truth, Acknowledgement and Accountability: Mother and Baby Institutions, Magdalene Laundries and Workhouses (NI Executive, 2021). He was awarded the Freedom of the City of Liverpool in recognition of his Hillsborough research and refused an OBE. 

For the full text of the lecture see 21st phil scraton and the video of the lecture is available here 



In the 20th Kilbrandon Lecture and the first in-person lecture since the pandemic, Professor Ann Skelton traced Kilbrandon's legacy in the South African Child Justice Act's 'preliminary inquiry' and considered the realisation of children’s rights in post-constitution South Africa. She reflected on Scotland's incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and explored the interconnecting lives and legacies of Alan Paton, Charlotte Maxeke and Nelson Mandela. 

The lecture was chaired by Dr Elaine Webster, senior lecturer in the School of Law, and responded to by Dr Edward Sosu, reader in the School of Education, and Sophie Shields of the Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures. 

Professor Ann Skelton is an academic lawyer and internationally recognised researcher in the fields of restorative justice and children’s rights. She holds BA, LLB and LLD degrees. She is Professor of Law at the University of Pretoria, where she holds the Chair: Education Law in Africa, and Professor of Law at Leiden University, where she holds the Chair: Children’s Rights in a Sustainable World. She is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Strathclyde’s Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures. In the 1990s, Professor Skelton was appointed by the Mandela cabinet to lead the committee that drafted South Africa’s Child Justice Act (2008). A pioneer in strategic litigation on children’s rights, and counsel in several landmark cases in the Constitutional Court, she is a member of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, having been elected in 2020 for a second term of office. 


For the full text of the lecture see 20th Ann Skelton and you can view the video here 


The experiences of children in conflict with the law demonstrates that we need urgent action of a scale not seen since the Kilbrandon Report (1964). Children in conflict with the law are exposed to significant trauma, adversity, stigma, and injustice. These issues are often exacerbated by contact with the very systems and services intended to support them.

For children in conflict with the law responses to the Covid-19 pandemic have compounded pre-existing issues, whilst also hiding some children from view. One group particularly affected are the children locked up in Scotland’s Young Offenders Institution, 80% of who are there awaiting trial, have either not been found guilty or have not been sentenced to custody.

In the 19th Kilbrandon Lecture, Dr Claire Lightowler will demonstrate the transformative change that could be achieved if Scotland viewed children in conflict with the law as rights-holders and devoted greater attention to upholding their rights.

Claire was the Director of the Children and Young People's Centre for Justice (CYCJ) for seven years, from 2013-2021. During this time she published a major report- Rights Respecting? Scotland’s approach to children in conflict with the law. This report explored whether Scotland was complying with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and what it would look like if children’s rights formed the basis of Scotland’s approach to children who are in conflict with the law.

Through this work Claire became increasingly aware of the need for children and young people accused of offending to benefit from specialist legal representation, which acknowledges their rights and legal status as children or young people; and is informed by knowledge about child development and trauma. To help her make a contribution to this work Claire has recently started a law degree at the University of Edinburgh and is planning to go on to practise law.  

Twitter: @C_Lightowler 

For the full text of the lecture see 19th Claire Lightowler and you can view the video here 


This lecture was arranged during the COVID-19 pandemic during a period of government-imposed restrictions to normal life. Only essential shops were open. Schools, colleges and universities were mostly closed, and learning moved online. The lecture itself was live-streamed, as a webinar, to an audience of around 500 watching from their own homes.

The lecture was based on Ms Bunting’s research for her 2020 book, Labours of Love: The Crisis of Care. She spoke about how care has been marginalised and the skills required to perform it widely undervalued, even by carers themselves. The pandemic brought the work of carers to centre-stage. While health and social care services had been underfunded for decades, a war-chest was found to fight the virus and its consequences. Ms Bunting pointed out that the vast amount of caring work, paid and unpaid, falls to women. ‘Care is the feminist issue; it profoundly shapes women’s lives at home and at work.’ The lecture was followed by commentaries by Strathclyde academics Dr Graham Connelly and Dr Laura Steckley and a vote of thanks by Minister for Children and Early Years Ms Maree Todd MSP.

For the full text of the lecture, see 18th lecture Ms Madeleine Bunting and for video , click here.

This lecture focuses on the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, presented to the UN General Assembly in New York on October 8, 2019.

The study examined the situation of children – anyone under age 18 – detained in the administration of justice, in immigration detention, in orphanages and other institutions, living in prison with their caregivers, or detained in the context of armed conflict and national security. In his lecture he will argue that states should rigorously apply the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires that deprivation of liberty shall be considered only as a measure of last resort in exceptional cases.

For the full text of the lecture, see 17th Lecture - Manfred Nowak and for video here.

This lecture considered how our approach to children in trouble has evolved over those years, along with our understanding of what is in the best interests of the child in the context of further adjustments brought about by human rights considerations and a greater recognition of what works in tackling children in trouble that have also obliged us to accommodate different perspectives within the setting of the Hearing.

For the full text of the lecture, see 16th Lecture - Elish Angiolini. and video here.

In this lecture Ms Sturgeon spoke about her government’s aim to incorporate the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child into legislation in Scotland. She gave notice of the intention to raise the age of criminal responsibility from eight to 12 and to provide equal protection in law for children against physical punishment – both of which measures have since reached the statute book, while the intention to implement the ‘named person’ legislation foundered. In relation to the principle of giving children a say in the decisions that affect them, Ms Sturgeon referred to the right of young people aged 16 and over to vote in Scottish general and local elections and the prominence of the Children’s and Youth Parliaments. She also drew attention to the introduction of the role of National Convenor with statutory duties associated with the recruitment, selection and training of children’s panel members, independent advocates to speak for children at Hearings and the review of the care system.

For the full text of the lecture, see 15th Lecture - Nicola Sturgeon and for video here.

In this lecture, Professor Standing sought to argue two key points: first that children are ultimately the worst-off victims of the economic and social policies supported by neoliberal capitalists; and second that the economy is out of control by society since it has been dominated by financial capital and by the neoliberal ideology of competitiveness, individualism and commodification. He outlined his thesis, that every person should have a basic income, as a human and citizenship right, justified on three grounds: social justice, enhancing freedom, and the ‘rights not charity’ principle During his lecture, Professor Standing outlined examples of basic income pilot studies. As well as improved economic output, the advantages, he said, were that people were more productive, more altruistic and valued their community more, and these equity effects also benefited children. Professor Standing’s lecture was followed by commentaries by students Mr Kieran O’Neill and Mr Gary Paterson.

For the full text of the lecture, see 14th Lecture - Guy Standing.

The theme of this lecture is leadership particularly focused on child protection. Professor Jay used graphic illustrations from her inquiry into the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham in 2014 to illustrate how the decisions leaders make at critical points can directly affect the lives of vulnerable children. These leaders, she said, were more concerned about their own reputations and that of their agencies than what reports they had received from frontline staff were telling them. Group think and wilful blindness are significant impediments to good leadership, she suggested. Leaders should encourage questioning in their teams, and model an operational culture with appropriate values, attitudes, beliefs and working language.

For the full text of the lecture, see 13th Lecture - Alexis Jay and for video here.

Lord Hope outlined the background to the setting up of the Kilbrandon Committee and the role of Lord Kilbrandon himself and the introduction of the Children‘s Hearings system. He considered how the new system was able to operate under the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 without any real challenge but the impact 20 years on of the Orkney and Ayrshire child abuse cases leading to the inquiry let by Lord Clyde. This and the Fife Inquiry by Sheriff Brian Kearney are also discussed. These events eventually led to the review of the system and the introduction of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. Lord Hope reflected on the impact of the European Convention of Human Rights and the rights enshrined in this, and also the impact of decisions in the Supreme Court and how these led to further changes to the system while maintaining the underlying principles.

For the full text of the lecture, see 12th Lecture - David Hope.


This lecture took as its theme the power of story to change lives, build resilience and give pleasure. Introducing his lecture, Professor Cottrell-Boyce said: ‘Our personal stories give us our sense of who we are, but the stories we read help to supplement and add to our experiences.’ Stories, he said, can carry people through times of great adversity. He talked about the importance of encouraging children to read for pleasure and to develop their own internal world.

The transcript available here is an abridged version of the lecture subsequently published in the Scottish Journal of Residential Care, with a commentary by Dr Irene Stevens.

Professor Cottrell-Boyce referred to The Reader charity ( which he supports. An article about the work of the organisation in a Glasgow primary school by writer-in-residence Patrick Fisher is available here.

For the full text of the lecture, see 11th Lecture - Frank Cottrell-Boyce.

In this lecture Professor Burns explained argued that ‘the way in which we nurture children, the way in which we bring children into the world, and the way in which we look after them in the first years of life is absolutely critical to the creation of physical, mental and social health.’ Noting the gap in life expectancy between the high and low-income groups in Scotland, he said that the gap will not be narrowed until it is better understood why this is happening. Adverse experiences in early childhood predict physical ill-health and psychosocial problems in adulthood. Good health, he said, is emerges from a fair and civilised society, where everyone looks after each other. ‘If we can’t look after children and give them a proper kind of nurturing environment, then we are far from being a civilised society.’

Note: the slides Professor Burns used in his lecture are provided at the end of the pdf file.

For the full text of the lecture, see 10th Lecture - Harry Burns.

In this lecture Professor Marshall proposed that: ‘many of our most needy young people live in exile from their communities; they can be exiled through neglect, abuse or loveless discipline or punishment; they can be brought home through love, loving discipline and their longing for community; and the children’s hearing has a central role in pre-empting their exile and effecting their homecoming.’ She issued a ‘call to arms’ to children’s panel members to stand their ground to ensure that lack of resources was not used as a reason for not providing the support envisaged in the outcome of the hearing. (Note: the references to ‘homecoming’ in this lecture channel the ‘Homecoming Scotland 2009’ events designed to promote tourism by encouraging people of Scottish heritage to visit Scotland.)

For the full text of the lecture, see 9th Lecture - Kathleen Marshall.

In this lecture Mr Cronstedt argued that despite most countries in the world having ratified the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, often the Convention is disregarded, or countries lack the resources or political will to implement its protections. He noted that more than one million children worldwide are living in detention, robbing them of opportunities for education, and employment, and exposing them to others who have committed more serious crimes. ‘If you would like to really know a country,’ he said, ‘visit their prisons for children or their psychiatric hospitals for children.’ Mr Cronstedt explained how family poverty can cause children to be exploited, prey to trafficking gangs who offer parents money to transport their children to a better life, which turns out to be a life of exploitation, crime and exclusion. In a wide-ranging lecture, drawing on his own experiences in Paraguay, Vietnam and Sweden, Mr Cronstedt noted the importance of disadvantage building children’s capacity, developing their life skills, knowledge and participation, in combating the effects of disadvantage.

For the full text of the lecture, see 8th Lecture - Bjorn Cronstedt.

In this lecture about modern childhood, Dr Waage spoke about the many influences on children, including globalisation, fashion, information technology and advertising. He spoke about how children have learned negotiation skills which are both empowering and also challenging to adults. The lecture explored a range of examples of opportunities for empowerment of children as a result of modernisation, as well as those which pose new risks of exclusion and exploitation. ‘Childhood is not a disease that will pass. Childhood lasts for a life-time and for generations. One wrong investment will be wrong not only for this one human being, but for a whole generation, because of the social heritage.’

For the full text of the lecture, see 7th Lecture - Trond Waage.

In this lecture Ms de Boer-Baquicchio explains the functions of the Council of Europe, noting that many Conventions in the field of family law were initiated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council, including the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights. In particular, she explained the role of European Court of Human Rights case law in ‘developing trends in the status of children.’ She noted, for example, the trend of the Court towards paying more attention to the interests of children even when these do not coincide with those of parents. Observing that at least 10 member states of the Council of Europe had prohibited all corporal punishment of children, Ms de Boer-Baquicchio pointed out that the recently enacted Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 which introduced the concept of ‘justifiable assault’ of children conflicticted with international and European human rights standards.

For the full text of the lecture, see 6th Lecture - Maude de Boer-Baqurcchio.

In this lecture, delivered on the thirtieth anniversary of the Kilbrandon report, Professor MacCormick asks whether the Children’s Hearing system prioritises welfare over justice, thus violating the first virtue of political institutions. He concludes that justice is served because while the system treats children differently from adults, it does not respect them less. In coming to that conclusion, Professor MacCormick argues that welfare and justice are inextricably linked, since administering justice to children cannot be considered aside from the provision of justice for children.

For the full text of the lecture, see 5th Lecture - Neil MacCormick.

In this lecture Professor Clare explored the impact of poverty, lack of positive attachment and abuse on children as they develop. The main theme of the lecture was the importance of family relationships and the impact of childhood experiences in shaping the adult. Professor Clare also discussed the impact of peer groups and other significant adults on the developing child. The importance of the role of fathers on the lives of their children was also a significant feature of the lecture as was the need for social work to recognise that ‘parent’ does not equate to ‘mother’. He also challenged government and employers to consider reshaping employment to enable both parents to play a crucial role in the lives of their children.

For the full text of the lecture, see 4th Lecture - Anthony Clare.

In this lecture Mr Dewar outlined strengths of the Hearings system. First, the volunteer, lay membership of panels and the advisory groups: the public involvement which ‘brings people face-to-face with the realities of much that is happening in our society.’ Second, the local nature of the system, allied with consistent policies and practices, and in this respect, he acknowledged the role of the recently established Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA). Third, the role of the Reporter in liaising among the agencies involved. He noted the substantial increase in referrals to Hearings on ‘care and protection’ grounds between 1977 and 1995 and asked whether the cause was awareness of the problems which were previously ignored or a growth in social problems. Mr Dewar also confessed to a personal scepticism about the value of residential care and said he looked forward to receiving the report of a review chaired by Angus Skinner (later published as ‘Another Kind of Home: A review of Residential Child Care,’ HMSO 1992).

For the full text of the lecture, see 3rd Lecture - Donald Dewar.

In this lecture Professor Stone began by providing a personal insight into the deliberations of the committee which gave rise to the Kilbrandon Report. He said it was a misunderstanding that the committee: ‘was concerned only with delinquent youth, and that considerations of child neglect and abuse were but an afterthought.’ In his view, the most significant statement in the entire report was this: ‘the true distinguishing factor common to all children concerned is their need for special measures of education and training.’ He expressed disappointment that Hearings, in his view, appeared to emphasise procedure over process, and he suggested that panel members needed a ‘distillation in straightforward language’ rather than ‘extensive process records.’

For the full text of the lecture, see 2nd Lecture - Fred Stone.

This lecture was conceived to celebrate 20 years since the establishment of the Children’s Hearings system. Professor Fox noted that the idea that children should be active participants in decisions affecting them had only recently been enshrined in the recently promulgated United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The theme of the lecture was Hearings as part of the international community – the system both potentially influencing reforms in other countries and the system evolving by learning from elsewhere. For illustration, Professor Fox referred to the UN Convention’s provision of an entitlement of a child deprived of liberty to have legal representation and suggested this was an omission in the Hearings system. He called for more detailed research on the operation and impact of the system and thereby providing more openness to international scrutiny and proposed the establishment in Scotland of an international centre for the study of comparative juvenile justice.

For the full text of the lecture, see 1st Lecture - Sanford Fox.