Advisory group to consider raising age of criminal responsibility beyond 12

Maree Todd
Maree Todd

The Scottish government has announced the establishment of a new forum to consider whether the age of criminal responsibility should be raised to higher than 12.

The Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill, which is currently progressing through Parliament, seeks to raise the age at which a child in Scotland can be held responsible for a crime from eight to 12.

Scotland has the youngest age of criminal responsibility in Europe and in the rest of the UK the age is 10.

Holyrood’s equalities committee backed an increase to 12 last November, but the government has since come under increasing pressure to commit to a higher age.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which has recommended 12 as the minimum age of criminal responsibility for over a decade, is considering whether to raise its recommendation to 14.

The Scottish government’s new group will include stakeholders and agencies working with children and young people, as well as the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP).

Children’s Minister Maree Todd said: “We are committed to protecting and promoting the rights and interests of children and young people. The Age of Criminal Responsibility Bill will raise Scotland’s age of criminal responsibility from eight to 12 years old. Raising the age will mean Scotland is leading the way in the UK, ensuring no child under 12 will be treated as a criminal, or accrue a criminal record.

“The bill has enjoyed broad support throughout the parliamentary stages though some have advocated the age should be higher still. The Advisory Group will review the future age of criminal responsibility within three years of the bill becoming law, making sure that any increase would protect the interests of children, young people, victims and communities. I am also keen to ensure that the review benefits from the views and experiences of children and young people.”

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